They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

I love old hand tools. I am obsessed with them – planes, chisels, drawknives, squares, braces/bits, saws, I love them all. Despite this I usually pass up on old wooden levels when I find them in the wild. Partly because they aren’t usually very useful at this point – the wood moves and cracks over the years, bringing it out of straight. Partly because the people selling them don’t know this, and tend to price them very high. But when I came across this particular vintage level, I had to buy it.

Stanley no. 30 vintage level

The levels are adjustable and are set in beautiful brass accents

The level was made by Stanley Rule and Level Co., which most likely puts it in the 1850- 1900 range. It was grimy and dirty to the point where the wood was an unidentifiably dull brown and the brass was tarnished, but the build quality of the level still shone through. Also, the glass levels were all intact. It sat around in my workshop for a few months before I had a very unusual evening with nothing to do, so I decided to clean it up. I sanded the whole thing down using 150 grit sandpaper, and used a chisel to carefully pare off the glue that solidified over the last century. I then sanded the whole thing again using 220 grit, and used 400 grit to bring some shine to the brass.

Stanley Vintage Level

Stanley Rule & Level Co. No. 30 Level

At this point it became clear that the level was made of Cherry – but I was definitely not prepared for what it would look like after a coat of tung oil. The tung oil brought out a very intense redness in the Cherry, a redness that comes from over a 100 years exposed to light. The rich, deep redness and the shiny brass accents are just a fantastic combination. It may not be very useful, but it’s a testament to the quality of the old Stanley tools, and it sure looks great on top of my tool cabinet.

Stanley vintage level

The Cherry wood has a beautiful redness to it that goes really well with the brass accents

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Just Tool Things, Restorations, Tools, 0 comments
1950’s Tube Radio Restoration

1950’s Tube Radio Restoration

This post is about something a little different than my usual fare. It still involves some woodworking techniques and is about a well-made, artisanal item, so I think it’s ok to write about. Last summer as I was about to head out grocery shopping I saw a really cool radio put out with the trash by one of my neighbours. It had rained the last few days, and apparently it was sitting out there for a few days. I asked him if he would let me have it, and he was more than happy to help me carry it into my workshop. It was time for a radio restoration!

Vintage radio restoration

The radio the day I rescued it

My neighbour’s parents bought this radio over 60 years ago when he was a child. He told me how he used to turn it on and wait a few minutes for the tubes to warm up before tuning in to listen. It hadn’t been used since the late 60’s, so it was in storage for the last 50 years, and had clearly been moved around without much care. The wood veneer was coming off and broken in all the corners. The top had some deep chips. The side walls of the radio had deep scratches that looked like it had been gouged out by Edward Scissorhands. It was missing its legs, so I’d have to make those too. And the tubes hadn’t been replaced in 50 years so I would have to look at getting those to work.

Vintage radio restoration

After some cleaning it didn’t look as bad, but it still needs a lot of work

A word of caution – Old radios from this time frame often have a hot chassis. Look up hot chassis radios, learn how to identify them, and test the radio carefully before you start working on a radio yourself. Hot chassis radios can shock and even kill you if you touch the chassis when plugged in. Some of them have metal chassis that are hot when switched on, and something to watch out for even more, some have hot chassis when switched off.

Radio restoration vintage

Filled in and taped up for paint. This is before sanding.

After carefully ensuring the radio was not a hot chassis type model, I cleaned out the internals. This took a while, and I had to be careful not to damage the tubes. I then cleaned the outside of the radio and assessed the damage to the veneer. I figured I could glue down some of the areas of veneer that were coming off…I would have to fill in the rest. Once the glue dried I filled in the chips, gouges, scratches and the areas where the veneer no longer lined up, followed by sanding to get the surface smooth and ready for painting.

Vintage tube radio restoration

The tubes – they look super cool when they turn on

The next step was choosing a colour. I knew I wanted it to be a vintage appliance colour, either a blue or a green. My girlfriend helped me out with this and she picked the perfect colour. I always seem to have difficulty picking paint colours so I was glad for her help. I then taped removed any hardware that would come off easily and taped the rest with painters tape. I applied one coat of primer and three coats of paint. I wanted to keep the Hudson’s logo, and that required some careful painting. If you look very closely it doesn’t look perfect, but from more than 6 inches away it looks just fine, so it would have to do.

Vintage tube radio restoration

Almost done. Just one more coat of paint…

I had to fiddle around with the tubes a bit to get it to work. I didn’t know it before, but it turns out replacement tubes are easy to find online if you know which one you’re looking for. With the tubes sorted, I had to make a cover for the the back – I didn’t want to risk my cat getting electrocuted in there.

Vintage tube radio restoration

Done and in it’s new home!

I was over the moon when I tuned in to a local radio station and found the radio worked perfectly. The tubes create a warm, crackly sound that has amazing charm to it. I’m a big fan of the Fallout series of video games, so I played some of the songs on the soundtrack using a radio transmitter and it was as though they were meant to be played on this radio. Here’s a video…it doesn’t do it justice, but it’ll give you some idea as to why I’m so glad I ‘rescued’ this radio.


Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Builds, 0 comments
Jointer & Fore Plane Restoration

Jointer & Fore Plane Restoration

It’s amazing how one person’s trash can really be another person’s treasure. This Stanley No. 7 jointer and Union No. 6 fore plane were given to me by my neighbour. He’s a carpenter and a strictly power tools kinda guy. These were collecting rust at the bottom of a toolbox for several years before he gave them to me. For him it was getting rid of some junk, for me it was an early christmas. Also, it meant I had an excuse to spend several hours at one of my favourite activities – plane restoration.

Union No. 6, Fore plane, plane restoration

Union No. 6 fore plane. This one was in pretty bad shape.

I love No. 7 jointer planes – they can be set up to perform so many different tasks. I’ve often used a jointer as a smoothing plane with beautiful results. Setting it up as a scrub also speeds up the scrubbing process a great deal. The No. 6 often gets a bad rap as a pointless plane – not quite as small as the No.5 to be an all purpose plane, but not quite big enough to be a jointer. I disagree. The extra length and width of the No. 6 makes it a perfect jointer/jack combo. But I am a bit of a plane fanatic, so I’d be hard pressed to find a plane pointless.

Plane restoration, Rusted plane, Fore plane

That’s a century’s worth of accumulated sawdust and grime. No wonder the frog screws wouldn’t budge.

Both the planes were in pretty bad shape – the No. 6 in particular probably the worst shape I’ve seen a plane in with all parts intact. It took some work to get the frog off – the screws were jammed in place. It took a lot of soaking in WD 40 to get the screws off after several hours of trying. The No. 7 came apart pretty easy.

No. 6 Plane parts, vinegar

Plane disassembled and ready for the vinegar bath.

There are a number of ways to get the rust off a plane – evaporust, sandblasting, electrolysis and vinegar. I typically use vinegar. It’s cheap and environmentally friendly. I soak all the parts except the tote and the knob in vinegar for a day or two. Yes, I throw the brass parts in there too. I’ve never had any damaged in the vinegar. Adding a bit of salt can speed up the process too.

Stanley No. 7 jointer plane restoration

The No. 7 completely restored!

I then scrape most of the rust off using steel wool and some WD40. For difficult to reach spots I’ll use a wire brush in a drill. I use WD40 to prevent flash rust. After drying the all the parts, I then use sandpaper (180 grit and 220 grit) to remove any darker oxidised spots and to clean up the metal further. I then tape the exposed parts of the plane off and apply three coats of engine enamel. Some folks like to bake the plane in an oven, but I find this unnecessary. There’s always some bleeding of the paint which needs some clean up to look out for.

Union No. 6 and Stanley No. 7 restoration, Jointer plane, Fore plane

The Union No. 6 and Stanley No. 7 ready for another lifetime of service.

I sand the tote and knob down in increasing grits, followed by a couple coats of shellac. Rosewood tote and knobs darkens a lot, so oils are not the best option. I then reassemble the plane and flatten the sole and the sides on a granite block with some sandpaper stuck on top. The bottom of the frog and the frog receiver may require some treatment using a flat-file to get them to mate perfectly to reduce chatter. I then buff the exposed metal surfaces with some metal polish and some paste wax. All that’s left is to sharpen the blade, and I have another couple of lifetime tools to add to my collection.



Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Restorations, Tools, 2 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.

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