This and That

Tour of Lee Valley & Veritas Manufacturing Facilities – Part 2

I left off in my last post in the R&D department at Veritas. One thing I forgot to mention was that I also got to see a part of Rob Lee’s antique tool collection, including a number of gorgeous plow planes. We didn’t visit Rob’s office, as he was away, but I hear he has quite the collection in there too. From R&D we headed out to the Veritas manufacturing facilities, passing through a large room with an incredible wall full of various tool designs – some of them were pretty out there, so I’m not sure if they were part of the R&D brainstorming process, or how they come up with the April Fool’s products.

Veritas, Plane, Woodworking

All of the Veritas handles are finished by hand in Ottawa

The manufacturing shop was pretty large in itself, and was extremely busy. We followed the stages of manufacture, from rough castings, to cleaning up the castings, to milling the mouths and the adjustable mouths of the planes, to the final flattening of each casting. Unfortunately I don’t really have many photos to share of the shop itself, as I didn’t want to inconvenience the many busy shop workers bustling about. In a separate area, the handles for all the tools are cnc cut out of torrefied maple, before being finally shaped and finished by hand. With the relatively large volume of production, I found it pretty amazing that Veritas still finished each handle by hand. The final castings, handles and screws/knobs all make their way to assembly

Veritas, Plane, Flattening

Final flattening of a plane sole at the Veritas Manufacturing Facilities

From there each tool and blade heads to QA, where every single tool is subjected to testing for flatness and perpendicularity. The final castings, handles and screws/knobs all then make their way to assembly, where they are assembled by dedicated workers and boxed, ready for shipping.

Veritas, Plane, Handplane, Handtools

Display of a full set of Veritas tools available to try at the Ottawa store

We finished our tour at the Ottawa Lee Valley store. The whole tour took over 2 hours, and I’m very grateful to Gerald for taking the time to walk me through all of their facilities and giving me such a detailed and attentive tour. To cap it all off, Gerald handed me a little gift in a velvet pouch – a key ring shaped like a Veritas custom jack plane (although Gerald pointed out these key rings were made before the custom line existed). It just so happened that I’d been looking for a key ring for a while, and this one was about as perfect as it could get. Definitely an experience I won’ t be forgetting soon!

jack plane, veritas, hand plane

The jack plane key ring gift I received

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in This and That, Tools, 0 comments
Tour of Lee Valley & Veritas Manufacturing Facilities – part 1

Tour of Lee Valley & Veritas Manufacturing Facilities – part 1

So last month I was in Ottawa visiting family, when I was invited out by Rob Lee, president of Lee Valley and Veritas to a guided tour of the Veritas manufacturing facilities. Being the veritas-phile that I am, of course I jumped at the opportunity immediately. Unfortunately I was only in town for two more days, and Rob was away, so he couldn’t give me the tour personally, but arranged for Gerald, head of the Customer Service department to take me on the tour instead.

Whenever I’m visiting another city in Canada I always use it as an excuse to pay a visit to the local Lee Valley store; I don’t expect to find anything different – I just love wasting time walking around the store looking at all the finely made tools. I’d already been to the Ottawa store and seen the Veritas building right beside it, which I assumed was the only other building they had in the area. I was wrong – there are six Lee Valley/Veritas buildings on Morrison Drive. Our tour began in the green building, and started at one of the cavernous warehouses. Gerald explained the system used to arrange products in the warehouse, and fulfill orders. The warehouse was particularly busy that day as one of the last few days of a free shipping event, and what struck me was that each order was checked for accuracy before being packed up and sent to the customer.

Lee Valley Veritas Manufacturing

Morrison Drive, where the Lee Valley and Veritas facilities reside.

From there we moved on to the customer service area. Now normally this would be a boring aspect of a manufacturing facility tour, but anyone who has dealt with Veritas customer service will know that they pull no punches when it comes to customer satisfaction. The customer service area had a full set of tools available to the staff, to help ensure they understand the customers complaint fully. The staff receive training on any new products being carried by LV. Oh, and the LV library houses a huge collection of books and guides that can be requested by any staff member across the country. The amount of care put into customer service really struck me.

The next stop was the media room, where products are photographed for the catalogs and the websites. It was pretty cool to see a laser distance measure being photographed at the time (it so happens that measure is featured on the LV website right now). From there we moved on to the design and research area, where I got to handle the new Large Plow Plane that should be coming out later this year. I was asked not to share any photos of the plane, so I won’t, but it definitely looks like an exciting plane. I was also shown the stages that the planes go through in development, from a 3d printed rough shape, to a rapid prototyping deposition model, to the final prototype in ductile iron.

Veritas, Lee Valley, Marking Gauge, April Fools

The Veritas Caliper Marking Gauge: It’s Real!

And here’s something I didn’t expect to see: The Veritas Caliper Marking Gauge. Every year Veritas releases an April Fool’s product (you can see the rest here). They are always pretty hilarious, but done well enough to make you question for a second if it is real…what I didn’t know is that they actually manufacture actual working models! For what it’s worth, it felt hefty and well made, like all Veritas tools, even if it was a bit…contrived an unwieldy. This post has run quite long already, so I’ll cover the manufacturing portion in the next post.

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

Renewed commitment

I recently realised I haven’t posted for while now. There’s been a lot going on in the last five months, and I haven’t had as much time woodworking in the shop as I would like, and as a result I haven’t been posting very much.

Summer is in full swing in Edmonton  now after an almost non-existent Spring, bringing with it beautiful weather and a backyard in full bloom.

Spring Snow Crabapple flowers

Here’s a spring snow crabapple tree in our backyard, with it’s beautiful but short lived flowers.

And here’s another change – a renewed commitment to posting regularly on my website. I have some exciting upcoming projects that include a mid-century modern coffee table in Walnut that went through a number of design iterations before I settled on a final state, a forever Roubo workbench in Hard Maple, and a folding step stool in Padauk and  (possibly) White Oak. So here’s to renewed commitments, and may your summer days be long and warm!



Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in About us, This and That, 0 comments
A Shooting Board for Squaring & Miters

A Shooting Board for Squaring & Miters

One of the most used work aids for hand tool woodworkers is the shooting board. While you can get quite close to perfect miters with a lot of practice, or using a miter box, nothing beats the accuracy of a shooting board.  I decided to make a new shooting board that does both miters and squaring – storage space is at a premium in my workshop.

I made the shooting board out of two pieces of mahogany plywood, both 24″ long and the bottom piece 10″ wide. The top piece was 7″ wide, leaving a ramp of 3″. I glued and screwed the two pieces together. The next step was to make two dados, one square to the ramp and the other at 45 degrees to the ramp. I marked the dado’s out using my most trusted combination square, a Starrett 12″ that I rely on a lot.I left around 8″ under the top fence for the angled fence, in order to ensure angled pieces have enough support underneath.

Shooting board for miters

The completed shooting board

The completed shooting boardI cut the dados out using a table saw, as I was working with plywood. With the dado’s done, I cut out the oak fence pieces. Oh, one thing to keep in mind – make the dado’s a little wider than you need to, in case things shift while cutting. That will leave some space for fine tuning the fence angles exactly.

I then applied liberal amounts of glue to the underside of the fences, and placed them in the dadoes, and using my combination square to set the angle perfectly, clamped the pieces in place. After a couple hours I countersunk and screwed in three brass screws into each fence piece. I covered the screws with some walnut plugs, as I liked the contrast and the screws in the fence were too utilitarian looking for my tastes. I also applied some oak edging to the sides of the board, before adding a stop block underneath the shooting board that I can clamp in my leg vise to keep the board from moving during use.

The final step is to apply a few coats of paste wax to the ramp, and the shooting board is done. Before using it the first time, I used my low angle block plane on the ramp and took a few fine passes on the side of the top board. This set up the rabbet that the blade will actually ride in during use, as there is a gap between the edge of the plane and the edge of the blade. I now only have find space for one shooting board instead of two.

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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!

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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, 4 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