The Non-Electric Chair #9: The Tool Chest (part 2)

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Blog entry by lethentymill posted 10-20-2008 05:05 PM 2039 reads 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: The Toolchest (Part 1) Part 9 of The Non-Electric Chair series Part 10: Waiting for Beech To Dry »

You can’t do a project like this without being impressed by the beauty and brevity of the names of the tools. No fancy Roman or Greek words, they’re all earthy old Anglo Saxon or old French: Adze, axe, awl, wedge, mallet, froe, to say nothing of scorp or felloe – I could go on and on, but as we are coming to “saws” and “planes” and “braces”, I thought this was a good time to bring this matter up. The age of these words indicates the venerable history of these tools.

I looked a few of them up and found that they were all old English or French, “bradawl” was old Norse, the only Latin one was “plane”.
I read somewhere that river names are some of our most ancient words, they too are often short and you can imagine how important it was to the Neanderthals to give a handle to these powerful barriers/sources of food and transport.

The video shows the lower reaches of the Toolchest. This is where the saws are and they are very comfortable to hold, the handles were designed to be used a lot and Mr Wake kept the steel in good condition.

“Look at the polish on these panel saws”. Ignore the Scottish accent, I can’t do West Midlands.

The video clips also show the whole family with the panel saws at the far end and the rip saw behind the three tenon saws.

These planes are worth a chapter on their own and, like the saws, will be important to me in making this chair. There are two routers: Known as a “Grannie’s tooth” it is used to clear the bottom of a groove to ensure that it is level. It precedes the whining, but very useful modern router. I don’t need a Grannie’s tooth for this exercise, which is a good thing, as they both need surgery.

Next along there’s a small compass plane – I hope it’s going to be of use when forming hollows in the back rails of the chair. Then there are three bench planes and a veneer plane – do you see it with the near vertical iron? Although this is designed mainly for roughing up the surface of soft wood pre-veneering, it’s also useful for finishing hardwood surfaces before scraping and sanding. Because the blade is working like a “toothed” scraper, it doesn’t lift the grain, which is helpful when working with difficult hardwoods.

Confession time – a mistake has occurred and I’m leaving it in; in the movie clip one of the three smoothing planes should not be there. It’s the one in best condition and it was Mr Hogg’s, it has his name on it.

Mr Sydney Hogg was an elderly colleague of my father’s who trained as a joiner before the First World War. He lost his arm in the war and had to change his profession; for most of his life he was “the sanitary inspector with one arm”. I have two of his planes; this one and a near perfect jointer. They must have been bought just after Mr Wake’s and, like his, they have only one name stamped on them.

So, two of these are Mr Wake’s smoothing planes, they are worn and, like old boots, they have patched soles – inlaid boxwood triangles that help to reduce the gap in front of the edge of the blade (throat ) and improve the quality of the job from an old plane. They are not in perfect condition so maybe I will have to enlist Mr Hogg’s help at some stage.

There is another and bigger smoothing plane here, but also badly worn, and a jointer, which is patched but very serviceable. It stands in front of a rebate plane which is just a converted jack plane, maybe it can be used for both purposes – I’ll try it later on.

All these planes have wedges instead of the threaded adjusters that we are more accustomed to. It’s a good system if you are patient with it. Don’t take a sledge hammer to it. I use the pin hammer in the top compartment of the chest and often wonder if that’s what it’s there for.

In one of the movie clips, you will see a plough plane on the left. On the right is a sliding philister with the depth stop missing; it’s still usable and eminently reparable. Philister must be a Greek word, because even though it’s not in my dictionary, I read somewhere that “ph” at the beginning of a word means it must be from the Greek. This is surely a case of the exception proving the rule. Anyway, this one is very nice but it doesn’t have Mr Wake’s moniker on it.

Why not? Another rule being broken? Well, there was one in the box and it was in a sad state, so I’ve kept it, but I’m not using it. So there!

Mr Wake’s collection of moulding planes are in good condition and no surprises as to which ones are here; a few hollows and rounds, a matching set (tongue and groove), a few mouldings and a simple rebate plane. Why so many rebate planes? For sliding sash windows? Or is it just that rebate planes last well due to lack of use? I would genuinely like to know.

These are nice planes to have if they are in good condition. If you are not sure what that means, try and restore one. A bad one will take ages and may never be right. The market for these is not very sophisticated, many are just being bought as ornaments – a bad moulding plane will make an excellent ornament, let someone else have it.

Of particular interest is one of the two marking gauges – and it’s not the big rosewood panel marker. It’s the other one which is a cutting gauge at one end and a marking gauge at the other. That’s unusual and I have seen many variations on this theme – there are threaded ones (with two nuts, all wooden), there are gauges with wedge fixing and ones with screw fixing, there are graduated gauges, there are posh mortice gauges made of rosewood, there are presentation ones made of ebony and brass (that’s all you need when you are intending to spend the rest of your days on a golf course!), but there’s something more unusual…
Can you see a scribed line on dull days? Can you see it on bright days? I often find myself drawing the line in again with a pencil. Now, this gauge has a hole in it and I think it’s for a pencil – a thin pencil, maybe it came free with this very clever gauge. Then I realised that a slimmed-down pencil would fit perfectly.
I put blades in the hacksaws and they were as good as new. Mr Wake’s collection also inclues mallets and a spirit level.

The three braces are well worn and one of them is terminal. There is a good collection of the usual drill bits.

No wonder the chest is heavy. I only hope these two chapters describing it are not too heavy, and you have some energy left to observe the process of trying out the tools on the wood for the chair, which is drying out nicely. You can just see the shelter on the left hand side of the screen at the end of the movie, which accompanies this chapter.

The Tool Chest

-- Allan Fyfe, Lethenty Mill Furniture,

2 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4667 days

#1 posted 10-21-2008 03:00 AM

Thanks for the up to date.

Over here on this side of the pond we call them fillister planes. I don’t know which is correct but the dictionary has it spelled that way.

Those are some nice saws. I have several old Disston’s my self. I get the most use out of an old Spear and Jackson Sheffield back saw with split bras nuts and a beech handle to die for. I rescued it from e-bay.

Keep up the good work

-- Scott - Chico California

View lethentymill's profile


61 posts in 4461 days

#2 posted 10-23-2008 10:37 AM

I must come clean here – I’m not sure how to spell philister – I see it with different spellings and it has left me confused. If I spell it diferently every time then I’m sure to get it right once in a while !
Regards Allan

-- Allan Fyfe, Lethenty Mill Furniture,

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