stevenbunn Thu, 06/25/2015 - 16:26
The assembled Saw-clamp
A quick shot of the assembled clamp using a shop turned wooden screw
This has been a quick and easy project. As usual I never follow directions or plans exactly. A personal curse since elementry school. Readers of Popular Woodworking looking at the published plans accompanying the article will note that the socket head screws holding the two jaws together at the hinge appear to be missing. In fact they are mounted on the 'back' side of the clamp and don't show in this photograph. An error in laying out the project, but not something that is of real importance. I can still easily adjust the socket-head screws with an allen wrench. At this point the clamp is usable. I haven't yet glued on leather strips to the inside faces of the jaws, as described in the text. I used my block plane to taper the mating faces of the jaws. Even without the leather the jaws grab a saw firmly with out slipping. I am holding off gluing on the leather until I am sure that I don't want to plane a little more meat off the jaws to increase the spring action. So far so good.
Another slight got-cha from the article, the plans show a second half-round cut out on the very ends of both jaws. This cut out doesn't appear in any of the photographs that illustrate the article. I went back and forth over whether to add these notches now or wait. Clamping four of my hand-saws in the clamp for comparision, I found only one of the four had a handle that would need a further cut out. But even in the case of this one saw, only the last 3/4 inch of the saw blade was left hanging in the breeze, because the handle obstructed positioning the saw-blade along it's full length. The clamp holds the blade firmly even with this little bit of unsupported exposure. So I am going to use the clamp for a while before making any additional changes to it's profile.
Well that was fun. Now it's back to the paying work. Have a good day.
stevenbunn Wed, 06/24/2015 - 08:23


Wooden screw and handle for the new saw-clamp

Another issue of Popular Woodworking, and another 'must-do' project I didn't know was on my list. Life was getting a little boring. The Communion table was delivered to the Phippsburg UCC church last Friday. Saturday and Sunday, back in the shop I was final sanding the octagonal top which sits on the font. A boring but necessary task. Last Thursday, the latest issue of Popular Woodworking arrived in the mail box, and in it was an article by Jason Thigpen on making a saw clamp to aid in sharpening hand-saws. Despite owning an antique metal pivoting saw clamp, the pictures sold me me on making one of my own. Before I knew it I was combing my scrap pile looking for material suitable for the project. I settled on mahogony for the clamping jaws and hard maple for the rest. While Thigpin recommends welding up a handle to tighten the bolt that compresses the clamp's jaws, or purchasing one from MacMaster-Carr, this project gave me another opportunity to make a wooden screw. I will post a few more photos of the project over the next few days. Thank you for stopping by.

stevenbunn Mon, 06/15/2015 - 11:57

Sorry, no pictures with this post. For much of the last week I have been sanding both the communion table and the baptismal font. I have to admit that my least favorite part of woodworking is the sanding required to get a piece ready to be finished. It's both mind numbing yet extremely demanding requiring one to carefully work through a series of ever finer grits until everything looks right. This week I have been rubbing on a tung oil varnish, one coat at a time, then clearing out of the shop to keep from kicking up dust onto the wet finish.

I have been asked by the church commissioning the project to not post any pictures of the completed pieces until after they both have been dedicated. So, to honor my commitment to them I am refraining from posting any further 'work in progress'  photos for the time being.

A friend sent me a link last week to an interesting website,, put up by a knife sharpener out in Washington state. The gentleman calls himself the Patron Saint of Sharpening. I thought I had a large ego! The videos on his site are great. I really enjoyed the video shot in Grendel's forge ( love the name, unfortunately my parents named me Steven. A nifty norse or hobbity sounding name would have better suited my self image) showing Grendel making a knife from a railroad spike. I watched it over and over because I was trying to work out the details of Grendel's stacked fire-brick, propane heated kiln which he uses to heat his work to a red heat. I use a similiar set up to heat treat my plane blades. But, I am always looking for a better idea. By the way, my friend set the Patron Saint a wreck of a knife with a broken tip, the patron saint does mail order sharpening for $5.00 a knife, and was extremely pleased with the razor sharp blade that was sent back to him. Wonders never cease. Thanks for stopping by.

stevenbunn Thu, 06/04/2015 - 20:27
After a number of trials and tribulations the octagonal lid of the font has been glued up and awaits sanding
Things never go exactly as intended. When I glued up the eight pie shaped pieces of the top last week, everything went smoothly until I attempted to fit the last wedge in place. As planned all outside edges of the octagon should have equaled 8 inches on a side. After fitting seven pieces together, I discovered that the outside width of the last piece to be fitted was only 7-1/2 inches! Arrggghhhh! I went ahead and cut the last wedge's width down to fit the gap and glued everything together, hoping for the best. I ended up with a usable but visually awkward lid. Six of the top's corners lined up beautifully with the angles of the molding. Two did not. And no fittling or turning the lid would make what wasn't right right. So, after coming to the decision that the top had to be redone, I cut eight new wedge shaped pieces, taking extreme care to make sure that my 22-1/2 degree angles on the miter guage were exact and consistant from piece to piece. Clamping the new pieces together dry, damned if I didn't have exactly the same problem as before. To get everything to fit properly I needed to cut exactly a 1/16th of an inch off of the bottom width of each wedge. The cut had to be tapered along the side of each piece with the apex of the triangle left intact. What I was doing in effect was to change the angle of each side from 22 1/2 degrees to 22 degrees, taking  an equal 1/32d inch cut of both sides of each wedge to keep everything symmetrical. Everything I was doing was seat of the pants, with no assurance what the result would actually be, and by this time I had chewed through the last of the wide mahogony. Sheer agony and nerves as I dry fit the cut down wedges.......into a perfect top! Thanks to all the gods of woodworking! My bacon was saved, even if I broke every law of geometry and can't explain mathmatically what I did.
Oh Well, on to the next thing. Thanks for dropping by. Have a great day.
stevenbunn Fri, 05/22/2015 - 20:49
Installing the trim collar on the underside of the top section of the font
Well, I'm a little bewildered about the best term to describe the trim molding that covers the raw plywood bottom of the font's top section. I used plywood instead of a panel made of mahogony to minimize the bottom's seasonal expansion, in order to keep the bottom from breaking the glue joints of the font. This solved one problem, wood stability, but added a second issue, appearance. I needed to come up with a collar of trim which tied everything together visually.
Today, Friday, I milled out the triangular beveled segments that make up the prymidal top. Very nerve-wracking and finicky work at the table saw. By the end of the day, I had the top clamped together with out glue to check the fit of all the pieces. Even though I have done this before when gluing up a top for the font mock-up, and I had worked out a step by step cutting schedule, you can still end up with joints that don't come together properly. Of all the steps involved in the construction of the font, cutting out the pieces of the top were the most challenging, and I knew this before starting. When building the mock-up I cut up a rather pricey piece of pine and ended up throwing most of it on the firewood pile before I figured out the correct angles and bevels required. Working with the mahogony  I couldn't afford too many re-dos. I cut the top pieces out of a six foot length of 10 inch wide mahogony ripped out of a 22 inch wide board. This board was part of a packing crate. Beautiful color, wonderful grain, but filled with random nail holes. With luck I was able to layout the cuts so that I avoided the nail holes.
One final thought. The astragal molding on the column and the collar molding on the under side of the top seem much lighter in this picture than they are in reality. I am not sure why, but it may be caused by the way a camera's flash reflects off these surfaces.
Thanks for stopping by.
stevenbunn Fri, 05/22/2015 - 08:16
Installing the crown molding
Here the last of eight segments of crown molding have been glued and clamped to the font. The molding was made by hand using a variety of hollow and rounding planes. I approached this stage of construction with some trepedation, but the finished molding profile looks great. Pat self on back, move on. Yesterday I milled out the mahogony trim which wraps the underside of the upper section and hides the plywood bottom of the top stage. The splines which reinforce the end-grain to end-grain glue joints of the octagonal side panals show up clearly in this photo. The cap pieces for the bottom will also lap over and hide the splines. I glued on the last of these bottom trim pieces just before dinner last night. I will add a photo of that step after taking another batch of photos this morning.
In other news, Jessica successfully wrestled with the sizing constraints inherent in the programming behind my website, and added two new pages in the shop section showing a larger scale view of one of the  pages of my plans for an Ebeneezer Tracy Sack-back. Thank you Jessica.
stevenbunn Tue, 05/19/2015 - 20:00
I now offer for sale a ten page set of plans for an Ebeneezer Tracy Sack-back Windsor chair. This chair comes from the early period of Tracy's work, incorporating carved knuckle hand-rests, turned bobbins on the ends of all three stretchers, and his signature baluster turnings. The original dates from 1780-1782. Currently my programmer is working to add a larger scale example of this plan sheet to the store section of my website. In the mean time I am posting this thumb-nail view to give you the an idea of the detail and information provided in this hand-drawn set of plans. Given the number of "free" plans for Windsor chairs on line, this project could end up being a damp squib. If visitors take interest, I have other sets of plans for notable Windsor chairs I have had the pleasure of measuring and reproducing which I will be happy to publish. For more information click on the plans link on this site's store page. Thank you.
stevenbunn Tue, 05/19/2015 - 15:27
Base molding completed, I am fitting and gluing the cap pieces around the top of the font
After a week of behind the scene progress, it is time to bring everyone up to date on the font's construction. I finished fitting and gluing the base moldings last week, after shaping each of the individual profiles with either one of my bench planes, or my rounding planes. With that done, I made up eight feet of crown molding using my hollow and rounding planes. I briefly considered taking pictures of the process, but not being sure that I wasn't spending a lot of time making kindling, concentrated on the work in front of me. Then I needed to make up the cap molding which runs around the top of the font. I made the cap stock like a traditional bolection molding with a rabbet that sits over the top edges of the font's upper section. The rabbet hides the gap between the  font sides and a top panel which holds the bowl. The bowl panel floats unglued, sitting on cleats glued and screwed to the inside side faces of the upper box. I cut the top panel a little under sized so that it could shrink or swell with the seasons with out breaking the joints of the box in which it sits. The rabbeted cap hides this gap and holds the top panel in the top section of the font. Today's picture shows the completed base moulding and the partially applied cap fitting around the top and sides of the upper section, in which a bowl will fit.
The cap molding as I write has been glued in place. Tomorrow I will start fitting the crown molding which fits immediatly underneath the cap. Have a great day. Thank you for stopping by.
stevenbunn Sun, 05/03/2015 - 20:46
Starting to fit the base molding to the font
Saturday was Bowdoinham's second annual open studio day for village artists and craftspeople. I set out coffee and blonde brownies for my potential guests. The day was sunny and warm. Consequently there were fewer visitors than last year when the weather was cloudy and gardens and other out-door activities weren't beckoning. I enjoyed talking with those who did came by. To help pass the time I started shaping the molding profile of the first major element of the font's base. I formed the curved profile shown above from 8/4 central american mahogony with a hand plane after first cutting away as much waste as possible on the table-saw. The base molding will be made up from five stacked layers of molding. The finished complex molding reflects both ancient Greek column base profiles and the carved stone moldings found in gothic architecture. The inspiration for this profile was found in a book of elevations and molding profiles measured in early American churches. The finished base is dramatic, visually anchoring the font to the floor.
A STORE link has now been added to the drop-down navigation bar on my home page. Clicking on this link will bring up two further pages. The first shows one of my shop made hand planes available for sale. Other planes wil be added to this page in the future.  The second is a new page showing the first of several Windsor chair plans I am offering for sale. Questions about either my planes or plans may be emailed to me via the email address shown on my contact page. Thank you for dropping by.
stevenbunn Mon, 04/27/2015 - 20:41

It was a busy week last week. The font is progressing. The three main sections have been screwed together, so it is starting to look like something. This week, I will start making the large molding profiles which wrap the column at the font's base. Time wise, it's not smooth sailing. Saturday, May 2nd, is the community Arts and Crafts Open House. I am taking part in the event. It is a lot of fun. Last year I had somewhere between fourty or fifty visitors. The day went by in a flash. The mole got to poke his head out of the burrow and blink in the sunshine momentarily. The downside is a day lost, when I really want to wrap this project up. Sunday is an organ concert. Ann is playing so I can't wiggle out. Another day if not completely gone, then at least disrupted. Monday, the Bowdoinham Community School's fifth graders are coming to my shop as part of their Colonial History month. I usually set up four or five work stations and let the kids use tools similiar to those used in the 1700 and 1800's. I let them use the pole lathe, a brace and bit, several molding planes and the spokeshaves. I talk a bit about colonial education, apprenticeships and my responsibility as a master to feed, clothe, and educate them (the boys mostly) as well as teaching them the secrets of the craft. Fun as always. I have done this since my oldest son was a fifth grader, and it is hard for me to believe, but the kids really look forward to their visit, and people come up all the time and say hello and speak of their visit in years past.

Last night I googled "woodworking blogs" to see if this page would show up, and if so where? It was pretty disappointing. Hundreds of blogs. None of them mine. Bummer!  Two blogs did catch my eye. The first "The Kilted Woodworker" pulled me in because of the kilt angle. I have run across a number of kilted craftsmen at the Common Ground Country  Fair where I demonstrate chair-making. Maine has to many biting insects for my taste, so kilts aren't for me. But I liked the blogger's posts on tools enough to bookmark his blog. A second blog "The Fameless Woodworker/Inconspicuously Working Wood" grabbed me with it's title and wry sense of humor. I feel like adding that even when you have at least some local fame, it's still really about the next job, and the one after that. My parents worried that I was to much of a dreamer. They were right to worry. Life kicks you in the butt a lot, and I have a well earned advanced degree from the School of Hard Knocks. I'm supposed to be concentrating on finishing the font. No font, no ducats, or dinera as my old platoon sergeant used to say. So naturally, I get wrapped up in this writer's project building a saw box to store his hand saws in. It's perfect. I need one. A great project, and a horrible distraction.

And speaking of distractions, I received the latest issue of Popular Woodworking in the mail Friday. Nothing inside really grabbed me, but one ad did. As I say, the mole doesn't get out of the burrow much. I am not in the market for tools in any serious way any more. But I do collect antique planes. Twice in the last year I have had a Stanley #1 bench plane in my hand and had to pass on purchasing it because the moths in my wallet aren't legal tender. See above, 'ducats', and 'dinera'. Also see, 'lack there of''.  I finally told Gerald, my antique tool junkie, that I thought I would have the ready this summer, and to please hold the next Stanley #1 which came his way for me. That ad that got my attention? It was a Woodcraft add for a Wood River #1 bench plane, which lists for $119.95! So I am torn two ways, buy a less expensive modern reproduction of a classic plane, or spend a thousand dollars or more to own an original. Niether make of plane is something that I absolutely have to have for work. Still, I really, really want an original Stanley. As I write this blog I think I would still rather pay more money to buy the original, but ouch!

And speaking a little more about money. I have been making planes for several years. And again the issue is that you can't spend the same dollar twice. I set myself a goal of building a complete set of hollow and rounding planes. The problem is the cost of the irons. Lie-Nielsen molding plane blade blanks range from $15.00 to $30.00 a piece, plus shipping, handling and sales tax. And oh by the way, you need two blades of every width to make a matched pair of hollow and round planes. Which starts to make the original concept of making my own planes to save money sound silly even to me. I can buy O-1 tool steel inexpensively, but can't find a machine shop with a laser cutting CNC tool that will touch such a small job. So I am stuck between paying LN high prices, or picking up an unmatched set of planes from Gerald for $15.00 a piece. Again, I would really like a full set of H and R planes I have made myself, but the reality is a mismash of shop built planes and antique "users" that do the job.

Well, those are the grumbly thoughts for today. Thanks for dropping by.