Month: August 2016

A Straightedge in the Rough (Moore & Wright No. 311B)

A Straightedge in the Rough (Moore & Wright No. 311B)

I moved in to a new place a little over a year ago. While the garage (which has since become my workshop) was cleaned out quite diligently by the previous owner, there were a few wooden rulers and a 2′ long steel heavy bar of steel still left hung up by the door. The steel bar was heavily rusted on the surface, so I never paid much attention to it, using it as a paperweight once or twice and hanging it right back up.

Moore & Wright Straightedge, vintage straightedge

Halfway through my clean up of the steel

A few weeks ago I was changing the blades on my jointer and needed a long and heavy straightedge, one that wouldn’t move too easily as I spun the cutterhead. The only thing that could meet that criteria was that old rusty piece of steel, so I tried putting it on the jointer bed and found it to be perfectly straight. This surpised me, so I decided to clean it up a bit.

Old Moore & Wright, Vintage straightedge

Moore & Wright No. 311B

After some careful sanding with some 220 grit sandpaper, followed by some 400 grit, I realised it was an old Moore & Wright no. 311B straightedge. Moore & Wright were tool manufacturers based in Sheffield, England, and were known for high quality tools back in the day. I say ‘were’ because like so many other manufacturers, in recent years they’ve shipped out their manufacturing abroad and have lost their reputation for quality.

Restored Vintage Moore & Wright Straightedge

The straightedge cleaned up very nicely

A little metal polish and some buffing later the straightedge looks fantastic and is a definite addition to my regularly used tools. I later found out the previous owner was a retired machinist, and the rusted old bar of steel he left me turned out to be a real diamond in the rough.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Just Tool Things, Restorations, 0 comments
Mid Century Modern Side Table With Bookmatched Top

Mid Century Modern Side Table With Bookmatched Top

In a recent post I did a little how-to on bookmatching veneers. The workpiece I was veneering in that post was a table top for a small mid century modern side table I was building.

Mid century modern side table

Base complete. The angled and tapered legs add a lot to the look.

The angled and tapered legs add a lot to the design. They are also surprisingly efficient when it comes to stock usage, as you can use a single board to cut out two legs if you plan ahead. The ‘shelf’ performs like stretchers would, in stabilising the table.

Bookmatched veneer table top

The bookmatched top after some time with a cabinet scraper

The top is veneered in a ‘quartermatched’ pattern, like regular bookmatching but involving four pieces in a symmetrical pattern. I detailed the bookmatching process in this post. Of course, I also had to veneer the sides and the bottom in cherry.

Mid century modern side table

The angles and the taper really work well with the dimensions of the table

The base was stained first in a darker stain, sanded down and then stained in a cherry stain. I find this approach brings out a more natural and older looking appearance than just going with a single lighter coloured stain.

The top was finished with some tung oil and a few coats of shellac. The tung oil really brought out the beauty of the cherry veneer.

Mid century modern coffee table

And here it is in it’s final location, made to fit beside the couch. The top has a beautiful depth to the grain.



Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Builds, 1 comment
Making a Chisel Handle

Making a Chisel Handle

Look around in an antique mall or visit a couple garage sales and you are bound to find a number of socket chisels. Usually they’ll be in pretty rough shape – blades chipped from years of being used to open paint cans and rough, handmade handles (or even handles that have been painted weird colours). As with any chisel, the blade is an easy fix. What sets socket chisels apart though, is that with some basic turning skills you can get yourself a set of beautiful chisels with custom handles for only a few dollars.

Erik Antonberg, Jernbolaget, Chisel, EA Berg

The E.A. Berg chisel I picked up from a garage sale for 50 cents.

I picked up this beautiful 1 1/2″ chisel for 50 cents at a garage sale, along with a few others. It’s an Erik Antonberg chisel, made in Sweden and highly sought after. I decided it was time to make a handle worthy of the steel. I had a small piece of figured cherry that I decided to use for this. The cherry piece was around 1.5″ square and around 4″ long. The length of the stock uses depends on personal preference, but extra length doesn’t add much to the utility of a socket chisel handle.

Lathe Calipers, Gedore

These are my Gedore WWII era calipers that work remarkably well.

A little tip to get a stubborn handle out of the socket is to grab the socket and whack a solid surface with the wooden handle. This should get it nice and loose. The first step is to figure out the dimensions of the tenon at the top of the chisel. There’s two ways to do this – if the old handle fit the socket well, the dimensions can be taken directly. Otherwise a piece of paper rolled to fit the socket and taped will provide a pretty exact dimension of the inside of the socket. I used the old handle, with a bit of tape wrapped around it – better to make it thicker than thinner, and the sanding stages will reduce the thickness further.

Lathe turning chisel handle

Figured cherry stock for the handle

Another important dimension is the outside diameter of the end of the socket. Ideally the diameter of the handle right below the tenon and the outside dimension of the chisel should be the same. With the dimensions taken on calipers/dividers, it was time to centre and set up the work piece on the lathe, and round the  stock using a spindle gouge.

Turning chisel handle, lathe finishing

Turning complete, finishing the handle.

I like to mark key locations of anything I turn using a pencil first, such as the top and bottom of the handle, the start of any coves, beads or patterns, the starting point of the tenon, etc. I then use a parting tool to bring those lines down to their final dimensions, using the calipers to check. Of course, for the top and bottom of the chisel the idea is just to bring the thickness down to a certain level, not so much as to destabilize the work piece.

Homemade chisel handle

The completed handle

With that done I used my spindle gouge to create the shape of the chisel, and my skew to smoothen it. I then sanded up the grits, from 220 to 400 to 1000, followed by burnishing with the wood shavings. I finished the handle with a coat of tung oil followed by several coats of shellac. The final thing to do (after sawing off the handle) is to chuck the handle in the socket and give it a couple sharp raps on the workbench, and it’s done!

Beautiful Chisel handle for socket chisel

Another view of the finished chisel.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Restorations, This and That, Tools, 1 comment
Home-Made Wooden Saw Vise

Home-Made Wooden Saw Vise

Sharpening a handsaw is a prospect every hand tool user has to face sooner or later. If you like restoring old tools (and it can be addictive) it is likely to be sooner. A saw vise makes this task infinitely easier, but saw vises can be expensive and difficult to come across. Thankfully saw vises are very simple pieces of equipment, and you can build a wooden saw vise that sits in your leg vise and is just as effective as the cast iron ones. And it only takes a few minutes.

Homemade saw vise out of wood

Homemade saw vise from wood scraps

All you need is two boards, 10″ or longer and 8″ or wider, and 6 strips of wood around 1/2″ square and 10″ long. Attach a strip of wood using glue or nails along the top and bottom edges of each board, and another strip on the opposite side of each, around an inch or so from the top. The next step is to connect the two bottom strips of wood with a strip of leather so it acts like a hinge, and the vise closes so the two strips of wood on one piece meet the two strips on the other. The only thing left to do is to plane or sand the top strips so that they are slightly concave.

This is important so that when the vise is tightened in your vise, it applies a lot of pressure on your saw plate, reducing vibrations and making sure your saw stays in place. And that’s all there is to it. Place your new saw vise in your leg vise, insert your saw and tighten the leg vise, and file away!

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in This and That, 0 comments
Gaming Table

Gaming Table

I was asked to build a gaming table top of sorts that could sit on top of a large ottoman. Nothing too fancy, but functional, rustic looking and good for card games and for the occasional food and drink. Oh, and I was given a couple days to make it.

Gaming Table, router dado, beads

Glue up complete and rabbets cut. Time to cut the beads.

I decide to build it out of furniture grade pine to achieve the rustic look and still keep it light enough to be carried easily (it would need to be around 40″ square so it was fairly large). After the glue up I set to work on the sides. I wanted to give it a 0.5″ lip on the top to keep cards or spilled drinks contained, and a longer 3″ lip in the bottom to hold on to the ottoman and not tip over. With the dado cut, I used an ogee bit to give the top of the sides a bead pattern and the bottom of the sides a roundover.

Cupped board, planing

Some quick flattening. You can really see the cup in the glued up board here.

The top (the actual table portion) had a bit of a cup to it, but I wasn’t too concerned, as the assembly would pull it flat. The only thing to keep in mind is to make the dadoes a little deeper than they need to be, to account for wood movement. The sides are glued together with the top ‘floating’ in the middle.

Staining table top, gaming table

After staining. I was instructed to make it rustic looking, and this stain fit the bill.

I also made sure to stain the pieces before assembly…it just makes it easier to get into the corners that way. I used three coats of semi gloss poly to finish it, sanding to 400 in between coats to make sure the cards slide freely, and voila – it was done in two days!

Finishing gaming table

Completed gaming table top!

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Builds, 0 comments
DIY Adjustable Jointer Extension Tables

DIY Adjustable Jointer Extension Tables

A couple months ago I restored a Beaver 3800 jointer. It’s worked beautifully since then, but an issue I kept running into was the bed length – at 34″, the Beaver has a pretty short bed. This makes jointing longer boards difficult and downright dangerous. Clearly I needed some sort of jointer extension.

Because of the age of the machine, it was highly unlikely I would be able to find the extension rollers that were made by Beaver back in the day. I also wanted tables rather than rollers, as they provide better support to the workpiece throughout the cut.

Adjustable jointer extension tables

The jointer extensions are made of two layers of plywood with a levelling mechanism

I decided to make some extensions out of some 3/4″ plywood. The extensions are made of 2 layers of plywood, with an additional strip underneath to provide extra rigidity. The tables attach to the bed using three bolts each. Of course, being a jointer, I needed to add some sort of levelling mechanism. I used threaded inserts in the top layer of plywood, and some bolts that pass through nuts in the lower layer. This allows me to level each of the tables at the 4 corners.

DIY jointer extension tables for Beaver 3800

The extension beds are each 24″ long, bringing the total bed length to 82″.

Each of the tables is 24″ long, bringing the total length to 82″ long. This means I can now joint boards longer than 8′ with no fear of tipping. The tables are surprisingly rigid and have very little flex even at the ends. This turned out to be a very cheap, quick and effective solution, and because it doesn’t need any legs, it allows me to roll the jointer out of the way when not in use.


Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Beaver 3800, DIY Jointer Extension, This and That, 2 comments
Bookmatching Veneer: a How-To

Bookmatching Veneer: a How-To

Mastering veneering is an important step for any serious woodworker. Well-selected and prepared veneer can transform a basic project into something exotic and beautiful on its own. Many of the beautiful old highboys and other pieces of furniture of old with wonderful grain patterns made use of veneers. There’s only so much beautiful grain to go around, so it makes sense that the wood is sliced into veneer layers to make it go further. If you have a single large piece of veneer for your project it makes it a hell of a lot easier. Quite often however, you will find yourself needing to put together several pieces to make a larger piece, or for aesthetic reasons. Putting together 2 (or more) pieces of veneer such that they reflect each other in perfect symmetry is called bookmatching. This post will detail the process I use for bookmatching veneer.

Cherry veneer bookmatching

Painter’s tape on the underside of the veneer after jointing

The veneer I used for this project was cherry, and I decided to put 4 pieces together for the top of a table I was building at the time. The first step of course, is to select the pieces you will be using. This is a little more complicated than it sounds if you are using 4 pieces, as you have to be very finicky when arranging them to make sure all the grain patterns will line up. Any odd or mismatched grain will look very bad in the finished piece. The veneer pieces are not jointed at this point (the ends and sides are not straight and square to each other), so account for that in your dry fit.

Veneer tape applied to bookmatched cherry veneer pieces

Veneer tape applied along the seams of the show-side of the veneer


With the pieces chosen, it’s time to joint them. Unless the mating edges are straight and square, the finished veneer will have gaps, and even a small gap shows quite a bit after finishing. Theres a number of ways to do this, you could use a jointer, a table saw (sandwiched between two solid waste pieces) or a router. I use a router with a straight edge. I lay out my pieces exactly as I would like them to be in the finished piece, and fold them up (so that if I were to unfold the pieces outward I would end up with the finished pattern). I then carefully clamp the pieces between two straight pieces of plywood, and route the mating edges along the straight edge.

Bookmatched veneer in cherry for table top

The veneer after application to the workpiece and scraping the veneer tape off

With the routing done, I lay the pieces out exactly as I want them, and use some painters’ tape along the edges to hold the pieces together. I then flip the now large piece over, and use veneer tape across and along the seams. Veneer tape is easy to use, just wet the pieces on a piece of wet paper towel and apply it to the piece. The  veneer taped side will be the show-side, which is worth keeping in mind. With the veneer tape applied, give the piece a minute or two to dry, and place a caul with a weight on top of it for around 30 minutes. This will pull the pieces together and tighten the seam. After 30 minutes, remove the painters tape, and you have your final piece of bookmatched veneer, ready to be applied to your project.

Beautiful bookmatched veneer

The bookmatched veneer after one coat of tung oil

There are a number of ways to apply veneer, from the basic cauls and clamps to a veneer press. Whichever method you use, once the glue has dried you can remove the veneer tape by slightly wetting them, or just using a cabinet scraper. If you were careful in selecting, jointing and taping the veneer, you should have perfect seams on your bookmatched veneer. Happy veneering!

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Bookmatching Veneer, This and That, 0 comments
Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 2

Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 2

In part 1 of the jointer restoration I took the jointer apart down to the nuts and bolts. I then washed the larger parts of the jointer in warm soapy water in to remove the accumulated grease and sawdust. This step is important as the primer may not work as well if you don’t remove the grease from the surface.

Jointer restoration

All the parts taped up ready for painting.

Once the parts all dried I set about masking off the jointer for painting. This took a while, and a lot of painters tape. Tip – a sharp utility knife makes all the difference in this step. I was especially careful on any threads that were at risk of collecting paint…that would not be a fun clean up job. With the parts all taped off, I applied one coat of primer, followed by two to three coats of paint.

I debated my choice of colour for a while before settling on black. I was considering the repainting it the original grey colour, but the grey just wasn’t working for me. I then considered vintage power tool green (something like the General tools), but the only other piece of equipment in my shop that colour is my bandsaw, and I plan on replacing that. That led me to my one of my favourite pieces of equipment, my Sawstop cabinet saw. I decided to paint the jointer in a Sawstop inspired theme – black with red accents. black and red is easy to overdo, and I didn’t want it to look tacky, so I settled on only using red on the legs of the base. I used enamel spray paint. Initially I planned on a gloss black paint, but I tried a bit of matte black and absolutely loved it. It reminded me of an anvil.

Beaver 3800 jointer restoration

Fence guide rods

While the paint cured, I got to work on the metal parts such as the fence glide rods, the many little bolts, screws and linkages. I used sandpaper, ascending in grit from 100 to 220 to 400, to work everything up to a shine, followed by some metal polish. Once the paint dried, I removed the painters tape from the bed and fence faces, and used a palm sander with increasingly fine sandpaper to remove rust and polish up the surface. While this may seem like a pretty risky way to do this, it takes a lot of effort to actually create a divot doing this, so you’re probably safe. The pork chop is one of the best parts of the machine – I sanded the paint off the details.

Jointer motor electrical

The death trap power cord and switch

The cutterhead was packed with 60 year old grease and sawdust, as were the bearings. I removed the blades and chip breakers and submerged the bearings and cutterhead in turpentine to dissolve the grease. Turpentine is nasty stuff, so only use it in a well ventilated place! I then cleaned up the rust on the cutterhead, and repacked the bearings with a gratuitous amount of grease. I ordered a new set of jointer blades from Amazon, and they arrived well packed and sharp. I bought a replacement belt from a lawnmower store, as it was the only place that seemed to have the right v-belt size.

Jointer motor grounding

Motor rewired and grounded

The only thing left was to rip out and replace the power cable, add a safety switch and ground the motor. The motor sat directly on the steel frame, so it was especially important to ground the body of the motor to prevent accidents. With the switch wired into the motor and the new power cable, the jointer was ready to be reassembled.

Putting the jointer body back together was fairly straightforward. I expected some confusion but it was surprisingly intuitive. The only difficult part was inserting the cutterhead back in, as the belt has to be inserted beforehand, and the cutterhead needs to be held up while the bearings are tightened in place. It was only me, so a number of failures later, I had them all in. The fence was anything but simple to reassemble, but luckily I took photos beforehand and used them as a guide.

Beaver 3800 Jointer pork chop

Beaver 3800 Pork Chop

With the jointer fully reassembled, I spent a few more hours getting the infeed and outfeed beds coplanar and level (before setting the cutting depth, of course), and a couple more hours setting the blade heights in the cutterhead. Both these adjustments were pretty complicated, but there are plenty of tutorials online outlining the processes so I won’t go into details here. A few more minutes to set the fence square, and the jointer restoration was finally done. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – it’s a breeze to use and it works really well. For half the price of the cheapest 6″ jointer on the market, I now have a lifetime-quality tool, ready to work for another 60 years before I sell it on to a future woodworker who hasn’t been born yet.

Beaver 3800 fence system restored

Beaver 3800 Fence System

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Beaver 3800, Restorations, Tools, 0 comments
Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 1

Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 1

A few months ago I purchased an old Beaver 3800 jointer. I bought it from an old gentleman who used to be an ironworker in the 50’s and 60’s. It was last used in the 60’s to joint doors for a hotel, and sat unused for the last 50+ years. As you’d imagine, it wasn’t in the best of shape, and while it still ran, it definitely needed some work. Which brings us to this jointer restoration.

Jointer, Beaver 3800, Restoration

The jointer before I started working on it.

The Beaver 3800 was made in the early 1950s in the Callander Foundry, in Guelph, Ontario. The Foundry was established in 1916, and had great success with their woodworking machines after the end of WWII. Their machines were known and prized for their excellent quality. Unfortunately, as is often the case with local Canadian businesses, small and large, in 1953 the owner sold the foundry to Rockwell Manufacturing Co. (Rockwell had bought Delta Manufacturing previously). The foundry was renamed Rockwell Manufacturing Co. of Canada, and the power tools were renamed Beaver-Delta tools. Gradually the Beaver power tools were discontinued in favour of Delta-Rockwell designs. The company changed hands a number of times since then, until in 2011 the Delta brand  was sold to a Taiwanese company, and the Guelph Foundry sadly closed its doors.

Beaver 3800, vintage jointer restoration

Taking the jointer apart.

I find myself drawn to tools (and indeed products in general) that are made locally, whether in Alberta or Canada, followed by those still made in the States. To me that’s part of the attraction of the Veritas tools…but that’s a different story. Anyways, of course, when I found this old piece of iron for a decent price, I had to purchase it and bring it home.

The 3800 is 6″ jointer, with a short bed, around 34″ in length. For a relatively small jointer (in terms of length) the 3800 was very heavy – we needed a chain and host to raise it into the truck, and pulled back muscles to pull it out of the truck. Everything on the jointer appeared to be made of cast iron except for the pork chop (Blade guard) which was machined beautifully out of aluminium. The fence system on the 3800 is a wonderful and complex feat of engineering. But more on that later. Lets get back to this jointer restoration thing.

Jointer bearings

The bearings.

The jointer was in pretty good shape for it’s age. The bed and fence had some light rust and a few spots of deeper rust. The entire jointer was crummed up with 60 years worth of dirt and oil. The blades were all chipped and would need replacing. The paint was mostly intact, but was flecking off in a few spots. The motor that came with the jointer was as old as the jointer itself, and the wiring was an absolute deathtrap. The cable was old and splitting in a number of places, held together with black cloth tape that pre-dated electrical tape. The switch was an old light switch that was bolted to the underside of the bed, and there was no clearly no ground wire. The belt was never changed and was well past its best before date. Of course, this was all above the hood, and there were probably more issues under the hood. All these things considered, there was no way I could start using the jointer without a complete restoration first.

Jointer fence

Taking the fence contraption apart.

As always, the first step in the restoration was to take the 3800 apart. I started by raising the motor to loosen the belt. Taking the bolts off wasn’t too hard with a bit of elbow grease and a couple squirts of WD40. Always keep some WD40 on hand! I almost damaged one of the bearings trying to take it out without removing the set screw first. The cutterhead was quite difficult to get out, and I definitely was not looking forward to putting it back in.

With everything taken apart I put all the little parts on my bench and labelled all of them – I ran out of ziploc bags and figured this would work. It just meant accepting the fact that I wouldn’t get anything done until the jointer was put back together.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the jointer restoration, where I do the actual restoration and try it out!



Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Beaver 3800, Restorations, Tools, 0 comments
Finishing the Workbench – Low Cost Roubo 8

Finishing the Workbench – Low Cost Roubo 8

Finally, after a long and very enjoyable (and sometimes frustrating process), all the mortises and tenons have been chopped, cut, fitted and drawbored, all the dovetails have been cut and assembled, the bench dog holes bored and the vises attached and adjusted. All that’s left now is finishing.


Bench complete, pre-finishing, with a temporary leg vise handle

For finishing I chose to use a mixture of equal parts boiled linseed oil (BLO), turpentine and varnish. BLO alone would work quite well too, but takes a while to dry. Varnish on the other hand is strong and adds some gloss, but would make the bench surface too smooth – ideally the bench top should not be too smooth, to improve work holding capability. Some people choose not to finish their benches at all, but finishing helps with humidity changes and with removing glue spills from the bench surface. For benches with contrasting wood such as mine it also helps bring out the contrast.


After the finish dried

I poured a liberal amount on of the mixture the top and wiped it on, and did the same for the base. 3 coats and I felt the bench had sufficient protection. Keep your windows open and your fans on, as the turpentine smells quite nasty.

a 20160325_164002

Once the finish dried, I moved some of my frequently used tools to the planing stop, and set about admiring my new bench. Altogether the bench weighs around 350 lb, so it isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Chopping mortises on the bench is a real pleasure, with almost no vibration at all, and with the bench dog holes, bench dogs, holdfasts, planing stop and vises, the work holding options have so far covered pretty much every situation I have come across.


The bench completed

I hope this build series helped you, whether you chose to follow it exactly or just get some ideas from it. If you have any questions or photos you’d like to share, give me a shout!

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Builds, Split-top Roubo Workbench, 0 comments