Alburnam's Archive

2000-200-2002  Stephen A. Shepherd

Finish Condition

The following was originally published in 1989 and is in its original format.  Click on thumbnails to view larger images, then use Browser Back Button to return to this page.

Finish Condition

Finish Condition

Finish Condition

Finish Condition

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The Board

                The board can be any wood, cherry, poplar, maple or spruce.  I could randomly select a board from the lumber store, the sawmill or the home center, but I make my selection carefully, and deliberately, I may have something in mind for this board or I might just want to have a board on hand.  I don’t look at this board as just a material to make something out of; rather I consider what it took to get this piece of wood from the earth into my hands.  The young sapling was started in a place where just the right amount of water, sunlight and growing conditions occurred in perfect balance and harmony.  It stood for years taking in the energy of the sun, nourishment from the earth and endured the changes of the seasons.  It grew in a forest with older trees providing protection as it grew and as it matured it provided the same protection to younger trees still growing.  Its leaves or needles enriched the earth; its branches provided habitat, its seeds or nuts, food for animals.  It endured freezing winters and scorching summers, it survived perilous weather; disease and forest fire and grew to maturity.

                When it was large enough to be harvested it was taken from the forest to a sawmill and was cut into lumber.  After it had been dried it became the board I hold in my hands today.  I carefully look at the grain of the board, I visualize how it grew in nature, and I imagine what it went through during its growing lifetime.  I also consider what its future life will be, perhaps a table, maybe a chair, possibly a tool or even a desk.  I check how tight the growth ring patterns appear, how the grain swirls, I look for defects such as end checking or pitch pockets.  I will measure the boards thickness, width and length to see if it fits my needs.  I pay for the board knowing I am providing if just a little to the lives of the lumbermen, the sawyers, the miller, the truck driver, the wholesaler as well as the person who sold me this fine board.  I know at this time other trees just like the one that gave up this board are growing in the forest so that others may share in the pleasure and livelihood I get from this wood.  The board and I return to the shop, I am already feeling a connection with this board, I will carefully and thoughtfully decide what to do with my board.

                I place my board in the lumber rack to allow it to acclimatize to the environment of my shop, all the time keeping it in my mind and mulling over the possibilities of what it will become.  I must be patient, I need to wait for the board to adjust and I am obliged to make sure I utilize it in a proper manner, wasting as little as possible.  Even the small scraps will be burned, releasing the suns energy, warming my body and soul.  I have a particular responsibility to this wood to give it a proper future, to make something that will last, perhaps longer than the time it took to grow from a sapling to a mature tree.  With this unique board I will have only one chance to get it right, I must not make any mistakes.  I have to plan carefully, my layout should make the best use of my board, my measurements need to be accurate, my cuts must be true, and my work ought to be conscientious.  It took generations for the tree to make this board, I can take a little time right now to ensure what I make from it will last for generations, perchance inspiring others who look at the results of my work.  I have an obligation to this board, to the trees in the forest, to my own self and to the future to get it right.

                While I do call it my board, I don’t own this board, I am only its caretaker for a while and I will pass it on as something I have fashioned into a useful object.  I can only hope that whoever ends up with the fruits of my labor will honor, respect and cherish this wonderful bestowal of nature, this magnificent material as much as I have.  Some may take it for granted; I do not.  To some it is just a board, to me it is a gift of creation, it gave me great pleasure and again I give it.

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Making Wood Look Old

 

                As wood ages with time it changes color within the wood fibers themselves as well as developing a surface patina that contributes to its overall color.  There can be several reasons to artificially age or color wood.  During the restoration process new wood added to old pieces, the color may need to be altered in order for it to match surrounding wood.  Perhaps it is a reproduction that would look better with an ‘old’ or ‘aged’ finish.  Maybe a new piece needs to match the color existing pieces in an ensemble of furniture.  Or you just prefer a color that can’t be achieved from a can of stain.

                As most wood ages the color changes to either red or yellow.  There are some exceptions; walnut lightens with age and some exotics such as purple heart change from its rich vibrant purple color when it is freshly milled to a dull brown.  With the last example there is nothing you can do to stop it from changing but there are things that can be done to slow the process, such as using a varnish or film finish and keeping it from sunlight and UV light sources.  Speaking of light sources, all of this work must be done in natural light or color corrected light to achieve proper results.  If you try matching wood under normal fluorescent light it will not look the same in natural sunlight.  Use proper lighting!

                In most cases wood will turn red or yellow and you will need to determine what color it changes by looking at old examples or the surrounding wood of a restoration.  Look at the wood and examine what the change might be.  Have a piece of new wood to see what the color was before the change and it is relatively easy to see what happened to the wood over time.  The first step is to make sure the new wood in a restoration has the same surface texture as the original.  This may require burnishing the surface to drop the softer springwood (or early wood-softer) leaving the adjacent summerwood (or late wood-harder) proud.  This can be done by using another piece of wood to rub over the surface to drop the grain.  Also a wire brush can be used if care is taken and it is used only with the grain of the wood, not across the grain.  A brass wire brush can be used but it may discolor the wood, especially light colored woods.  Usually a steel wire brush or a very stiff synthetic bristle brush can be used for this purpose.  The surface should be sanded to a matching sheen of the surrounding wood but some adjustments can be made during the glazing process.  If the wood is too smooth there might be problems with the stain uptake, so use grit that is coarser than 220, in other words a lower numbered grit.

                My favorite method of staining is to use oil based stains that I make up for each particular application.  I use Moses T’s St. John’s Oil mixed with dry powdered pigments to the desired color.  You can use Boiled Linseed Oil and Turpentine mixed 50/50.  The advantage of mixing the colors yourself is that you can get the necessary density of color and the correct hue that is sometimes unavailable from a pre-mixed can of stain.  Another advantage is that the oil/turps without pigment can be used initially on the wood to act as a conditioner to control how the stain is taken up by the wood, this is very important to end grain, as it will take up more oil and stain than the flat grain.  When you look at old wood, the end grain is naturally darker than the flat grain due to the nature of the wood, because you are looking down the cells and fibers of wood rather than looking across them, the end grain is always darker.  But when applying stain to a piece of wood the end grain can darken too much resulting in wood that doesn’t match or end grain that is just too dark.  By applying the straight oil/turps mixture first to the wood, especially the end grain you can control the amount of stain that it will take up.  Instead of mixing the dry powdered pigments into the oil, then applying it, I first put the oil on the wood and while it is still wet I touch the application rag into the dry powdered pigments and apply it to the wood.  I apply in a circular motion initially to deposit the stain particles down into any open grain then wipe off any excess in the direction of the grain to avoid any swirl marks, taking care not to leave any streaks.  I may not achieve the desired color on the first application but it is almost impossible to get the color of old wood with a single application of stain.  It is better to err on the light side because it is easy to add another coat to darken but will require sanding or scraping to remove a color that is too dark.  If the color is too light, dip the rag into the dry powdered pigments and apply again to slightly darken, but don’t overdo it, you can always add a second coat.  If a color goes too dark, try wiping the surface down with just the oil/turps mixture without any pigments to lighten the stained wood, if this doesn’t work you may have to sand or scrape the stain off.  One disadvantage of using oil/turps/pigment is that it takes 24 hours to dry but the advantages such as its workability greatly outweigh the disadvantages.  Make sure when you use oil that the application is not too thick or it will not dry properly.  Apply the oil/turps/pigment to the wood then wipe off all excess in the direction of the grain to avoid streaking.  It is then allowed to dry overnight and lightly sanded with 220 grit prior to the next step.

                When aging I use yellow ocher to stain the wood a yellow color and red iron oxide to stain it red.  This is applied using the oil/turps mixture and allowed to dry overnight.  This color for some reason always looks wrong, it may appear too red or too yellow, but don’t panic, it isn’t what you are going to end up with.  I always do a test piece to see just how much pigment to add to the oil/turps and to see if with the second application some of the initial stain is removed with the second application of stain.  Use a scrap piece of the same type of wood and make sure it is worked and or sanded just like what you will be staining to insure no surprises.  A few wasted scraps are a lot better than ruining your completed work.  If this happens I will lightly sand with 220 grit then seal the first coat (after it has dried 24 hours) with an application of thinned shellac.  If the wood is dark I will use orange shellac, if it is a light color wood I will use bleached shellac.   I really thin the shellac with a lot of denatured alcohol to about 1/8th to pound cut, that is very thin.  The second stain is oil/turps and burnt umber to get closer to the final color.  I may need to add a little black iron oxide to darken if necessary or a little zinc oxide to lighten depending upon the application, maybe a little yellow or red to change the color slightly, but the burnt umber will usually do the trick for most woods.  Again I always err on the lighter side, as it is much easier to put on a second coat to darken rather than remove too much dark stain.  I will usually seal with thin shellac between coats to prevent any previous stain from bleeding through or turning muddy.

                If I am in a hurry or just impatient I might do the staining with dry powdered pigments mixed with shellac thinned with alcohol.  The advantage is that it doesn’t require overnight to dry, it dries immediately, and the disadvantage is that the second coat will easily dissolve the first coat so the applications need to be quick to avoid this problem.  An advantage of this method is that the stain can be sprayed and this usually avoids the problem of softening or removing the first coat.  I sometimes use an airbrush to apply a coat of stain.  I may also do this in conjunction with the oil stain process, especially when applying the final glaze or adding the natural aging (darkening on inside corners and details).  Layers of pigmented shellac can also be sealed with a coat of oil/turps or a coat of thinned spar varnish, which is allowed to dry for 24 hours.  A light sanding with 220 grit to remove any dust nubs and smooth the surface prepares it for the next step.

                The final process to bring the wood to its ultimate color is applying a glaze.  Using the same dry powdered pigments I mix it into thinned shellac to make a glaze and as usual burnt umber is the pigment of choice.  Sometimes all that is necessary is a glaze of shellac, either orange or bleached to bring the stain to its final chromatic intensity and surface sheen.  Again the glazing process can be done in steps or stages, several thin coats are better than one thick coat.  The pigments will settle out in the shellac solution so it is important to stir the mixture frequently.  By building up in layers you can create effects than cannot be achieved in any other way.  When matching old wood such as during the restoration process, you will notice on old pieces that inside corners and details are usually darker.  Areas that get a lot of natural wear will be lighter so you can use the glaze to darken the areas where this natural darkening takes place.  If it is oil based you can use straight oil/turps to wipe down areas to make them lighter.  If it is shellac based you can use denatured alcohol to lighten the appropriate areas.  With shellac, an airbrush can be used to produce the feathered lightening/darkening effect as well as a dry brush technique to blend in the areas.  Avoid brush marks to make the effect more realistic.

                Woods such as walnut that lightens with age or wood that is too dark to match the old wood can be bleached to lighten its natural color.  After the wood is bleached and lightly sanded to remove the raised grain, it can be stained to match using these processes.  See Bleaching Wood.

                Certain woods such as cherry will naturally darken with exposure to UV light.  It is a good idea to shape the new work to its final form then place it in direct sunlight for several days to ‘suntan’ the cherry and darken it prior to any staining.  A problem people have with cherry is that it is stained to match and in as little as a couple of days has turned much darker than surrounding wood because of this quick darkening process.  See The Matter of Cherry.

                To seal or finish the work I usually use a marine spar varnish thinned with turpentine to add a final film coating to protect the work.  The dry powdered pigments can also be added to this product if additional coloring is needed.  This product is available in satin or gloss and the surface can also be manipulated.  If the final coat is too shiny, then a light abrasive can be used to take away some of the shine.  If the surface is too dull it can be shined up with the application of a paste wax or Moses T’s St. John’s Wax.  I do not recommend that you use a colored paste wax or colored waxed products as the wax never dries and the color can be wiped off.  See Traditional Varnish.

                By slowly and deliberately building up the thin layers of stain in the proper order it is possible to perfectly match any color of wood be it old restoration or new work.  By using the multi-layered method a rich look is achieved resulting in work that has a proper color and patina that did not take years to achieve.

                There are other methods of changing the color of wood, see Chemical Staining and Staining, also Oil Finish and Painting and Graining can provide additional material to help you in the process of making new wood look old.

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Rush, Flag or Sea Wrack Seat Bottom

These materials have been used for centuries to fabricate attractive, durable and inexpensive seat bottoms.  Of cattail leaves or Sea Wrack a type of marine grass is collected and twisted into cords that are simply woven over the top rungs that form the seat bottom. 

1.        Soften the material by getting it wet, it does not need to be soaked like cane, it just is easier to work and form when it is wet.

2.        Because most chairs are wider at the front an initial application of material must precede to bring the weaving back to square to continue the weaving process.  The ends are secured in place using small upholstery or carpet tacks, when possible all new lengths and the ends of previous lengths are secured with tacks.  If you choose to knot the ends together do so on the underside of the chair and conceal the ends inside the seat bottom.  Use a wooden block and a mallet to straighten and tighten the rush together.

Beginning the weave

3.        Attach the end to the inside of the first rung bring it down around up an over that rail then around the corner under the adjacent rung up, over the top, across the seat under the opposite rung, around that rung, around the corner, over the adjacent rung and perpendicular to the first long rung to the opposite side and continue, and continue. 

4.        When the seat is rectangular and not square, once the short rails are filled in the weaving is continued back and forth until the long rails are covered. 

Filling in on a non rectangular seat

5.        The spaces between the top and bottom weave is usually filled with the cut off ends and broken pieces to give body to the weaving.  Pieces of soft paper also work to make the seat more solid.

Finished Rush Seat

6.        A protective coat of glue size or varnish will protect the seat.

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Wagon Maker

Lumber CartLumber Cart

Lumber WagonLumber Wagon

 

Illustrations from Shepherds' Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker, 1981

 

While the coach maker produces fine carriages, gigs and coaches basically for transporting people, the wagon maker makes wagons, carts and drays to move heavy cargo and commerce.  In some locations the wagon maker would have been the coach maker and maybe even the wheelwright, in more settled parts of the country these trades would be separate specializing in their particular type of trade.  The line may be fine between the trades but there is usually enough difference to consider them separately. 

Angle of axle in relation to wheel                        Angle at which a wagon will tip over

All wagons have an undercarriage that holds the wheels, steering gear and holds the wagon box.  Some wagons such as buckboards have floor boards made of springy wood and are suspended from the rear truck to the front truck and provides a somewhat cushioned ride.  Most wagons have no suspension and any attempts to cushion the ride are done at the wagon seat.  The wagons seldom go very fast for very long and most of the time they are traveling under 5 miles per hour.  Wagons were not made for the comfort of the driver, usually the only passenger; they were made to haul heavy loads over questionable roads.  Most wagons have flat bottom and square sides and ends; simple boxes open on the top.  A variant is the Conestoga wagon, which had a curved bottom, slightly slanting sides and very slanted ends, giving the wagon a boat like appearance.  The reason for the curved bottom is so that when it is loaded with chests, crates and boxes of goods and the bottom caused the cargo to lean into each other, preventing shifting during transport.

Top view of undercarriageSide view of undercarriage

end view of undercarriage

Undercarriage

Undercarriage is the connection between the wheels that provide the movement and the wagon body that holds the cargo being moved.  These structures must be strong and lightweight, capable of changes in temperature and humidity, variations in load as well as uncertain road conditions.  Called the running gear the undercarriage is divided into two parts.  The upper part supports the wagon body and it is connected to the lower portion; the axles and the tongue.  A simple cart will necessarily follow the horse; a wagon with four wheels will skid through a turn if the front axle does not turn to follow the horse.  The rear axle does not turn and will follow the lead of the front wheels.  The bolster; which supports the wagon body above the rear axle remains always directly above the rear axle, the front upper bolster stays with the wagon body as the axle and lower bolster turns on the king pin to follow the horse.  To prevent the upper bolster from toppling off the lower bolster and front axle during a turn, two wood or iron semi-circles are attached to both sides of the hounds to provide stability to the bolster that supports the wagon body.  This is called the ‘fifth wheel’.  There are hounds on both the front and rear axles that provide stability and keep the axles aligned with the running gear.

Top view of axle showing 'toe in'Front view of axle, bottom parallel to ground

Axle –  top view, side view

The most important part of the undercarriage is the axle.  Both axles are the same, however the front axle turns on the kingpin and requires a second bolster.  This makes the front bolsters higher than the back bolster but smaller wheels in the front and larger wheels in the rear compensate for this.  The axles are constructed of oak and are square or rectangular in cross section under the body of the wagon.  The ends are round tapered cylinders fashioned into the ends of the axle.  Looking straight on, the bottom of the axle ends are parallel with the ground and the top angles down.  This is done to create a perpendicular line between the axle and the spokes where the wheel touches the ground.  This insures that the spoke or spokes taking the load are straight up and down causing the tops of the wheels to lean out and this is called ‘camber’.  With the spoke(s) perpendicular they are under the least lateral stress to support the load.  Looking straight down the tapered end is almost straight out from the axle but is tipped slightly forward.  This causes the hubs of the wheels to track in the center of the axle end, not wearing against the axle on the inside or the outside against the linchpin, which holds the wheel on the axle.  This slight tip forward is called ‘toe-in’.

Some wagons were equipped with brakes in the running gear.  This was used to slow wagons during decent down hills or to keep the wagon or carriage stationary while loading or unloading cargo or passengers.  A large lever located at the front of the wagon actuated the brake mechanism that forced blocks usually made of hardwood against the iron tire of the wheel to slow and stop the vehicle.  Some of these levers had an attached metal strap or stirrup to allow extra pressure by pushing with the foot.  Some had locking ratchets to allow the brake to be set at different degrees of pressure for slowing the vehicles progress or to lock it in the fully engaged position allowing the driver to leave the vehicle unattended.

Wagon Bodies

The body of the wagon contained and protected the load on the road while riding on the undercarriage.  Curved floors and slanted sides were designed to make the loads sit tight against each other to prevent load shifting during transportation.  The frames were made of strong springy wood such as ash or oak and the thin flat boards were made from a tough wood, knotty elm was preferred.  This method of construction allowed for lightweight but strong wagon bodies.  Additional iron hardware secured the frame together with bolts and nuts, this allowed for repairs.  Some areas were reinforced with iron plates and rivets for extra strength in areas not expected to be damaged or disassembled.  Stay chains were used to prevent the sides of the wagon body from spreading out with the forces from the load it is carrying.  The chains could be unhooked to allow the cargo to be loaded and unloaded.

Many wagons made the trip West and after reaching their destination a large transportation wagon was no longer necessary, but the frugal pioneers didn’t waste anything.  For many the wagon box was their first shelter in their new home providing protection from the elements as a new dwelling was being constructed.  A few early photographs actually show these wagon boxes as being incorporated into the buildings.  The undercarriages were altered to use for hauling logs or a smaller wagon box was added to be of more use around the farm than the large transportation bodies.

Wagon body on saw horses                Wagon body

Nothing was wasted many old wagon bodies were disassembled and made into furniture, tools or other items needed on the frontier.

 

Accessories

Grease buckets were carried hung under the undercarriage, usually between the back wheels.  Containing a mixture of pine pitch and tallow, the stick was used to apply the mixture to the wheel bearing area to prevent the proverbial squeaking wheel.

Grease BucketGrease Bucket

The wagon jack was an important item to facilitate repairs while on the road.  While poles and a pile of rocks could act as a lever and fulcrum but the wagon jack made the necessary repairs much easier.  Many different designs were developed from simple wooden models to examples with wood bodies and iron gears, cranks, pawls and ratchets.  The mechanisms usually only move a few inches, just enough to get the wagon wheel free of the road to allow it to be removed and repaired.

 

Chocks were used to block the wheels and preventing them from turning while the wagon was stationary to facilitate loading, unloading or storage.  Usually constructed of wood, some old chocks were made of wrought iron and in some instances a rock or log would serve the same purpose.

 

Drags are similar to chocks but were used to slow the progress of a wagon down a hill or incline to prevent it from overtaking the pulling team.  Almost always constructed of iron looking like a thick shovel with a loop for a rope, these drag shoes were attached to the wagon and deployed as necessary.  The rope or chain would allow the drag to slip under the rear wheels of the wagon holding them stationary and providing a friction drag to slow the wagon.  These devices saved the brakes of the wagon and were necessary while traveling in the mountains.  If these were not available the pioneers would attach a heavy log at the end of a length of rope to slow the decent down a steep hill.

 

Odometers were unique devices constructed of wood and attached to a wagon body next to one of the rear wheels.  A rod was attached to a spoke on the wheel and each time the rod passed by the odometer box it would advance the mechanism to keep track of the distance.  A series of wooden clockwork gears and a dial would measure the distance traveled.  Each odometer had to be calibrated to the circumference of the wagon wheel to give accurate measurements.  Where these were not available a rag was attached to one of the spokes and someone, usually a child would walk beside the wheel and count each revolution.  At the end of the day the number of revolutions was counted, this was multiplied by the circumference of the wagon wheel and the distance determined.

 

See Coach Making and Wheelwright.

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Ancient Equivalents

        Old Names                                     Modern Names (italics indicate scientific names)

  1. Acid of Sugar                            Oxalic Acid
  2. Alkanet Root                             Alkanna tinctoria
  3. Alum (Allum, alumn)                  Aluminum Sulfate
  4. Aqua Fortis                                Nitric Acid
  5. Aqua Regia                                Nitro-Muriatic Acid
  6. Armenian Bole (Bole Armeniac) Red Clay
  7. Asphaltum                                  Mix of Bitumens and Asphalt
  8. Bakers Ammonia                       Slats of Hartshorn
  9. Bell Metal                                  Three to 4 parts copper to 1 part tin
  10. Benjamine                                  Benzoin
  11. Birdlime                                     See Lime & Quicklime
  12. Bismuth                                     Element for extracting mercury
  13. Blue Stone                                 Copper Sulfate
  14. Boule (bole)                               Bole Armeniac
  15. Borax                                        Hydrated Sodium Borate
  16. Brazil Dust                                 Pernambuco
  17. Brimstone                                  Sulfur
  18. Butter of Antimony                    Antimony Trichloride
  19. Butter of Tin                              Anhydrous Stannic
  20. Butter of Zinc (killed spirits)       Chloride
  21. Calcium Carbonate                    Whiting - Chalk
  22. Calomel                                    Chloride of Mercury
  23. Chalk                                        Carbonate Calcium
  24. Caustic Potash                           Hydrate Potassium
  25. Caustic Soda                             Sodium Hydroxide
  26. Chalk                                        Carbonate Calcium
  27. Chili Niter                                  Sodium Nitrate
  28. Chloride of Gormyle                  Chloroform
  29. Chrome Green                           Chromate of Iron
  30. Chrome Yellow                          Chromate of Lead
  31. Cinnabar                                     Vermillion
  32. Common Salt                              Chloride of Sodium
  33. Common Soda                            Bicarbonate
  34. Copperas (copper sulfate)           Sulfate of Iron/Zinc Chloride
  35. Copperas, Blue                           Copper Sulfate
  36. Corrosive Sublimate                     Bi-Chloride of Mercury
  37. Cream of Tartar                           Bitartrate Potassium
  38. Curcuma                                      Goldenseal Root
  39. Cochineal                                     Dye from insect Dactylopius coccus
  40. Diamond                                      Pure Carbon
  41. Dragon's Blood                            Resin from Rattan Palm Fruit
  42. Dry Alum                                     Sulfate Aluminum & Potassium
  43. Epsom Salts                                 Sulfate of Magnesia
  44. Ethiops Mineral Black                  Sulfide of Mercury
  45. Exhilarating Gas                           Nitrous Oxide
  46. Ferro Prussiate                             Potassium Ferrocyanide
  47. Fuller's Earth                                Rottenstone
  48. Fustic                                          Wood of Chlorophora tinctoria
  49. Galena                                        Sulfide of Lead
  50. Gallotonnic Acid                          Nut Galls
  51. Gesso                                          Fine plaster made with whiting
  52. Glair                                            Preparation of egg whites
  53. Glauber's - Salt                            Sulfate of Sodium
  54. Glucose                                       Grape Sugar
  55. Glycerine                                     Glycerol
  56. Gypsum                                       Hydrous Calcium Sulfate
  57. Hartshorn                                    Ammonia
  58. Hartshorn, Slats of                      Ammonium Carbonate
  59. Hartshorn, Spirits of                    Ammonia
  60. Hydrochloric Acid                       Hydrogen Chloride
  61. Hydrotal Sodium Tetraborate      Nitro-chlorahydric Acid
  62. Iron Pyrites                                 Bi-Sulfide Iron
  63. Isinglass                                      Fish bladder glue (sturgeon)
  64. Isinglass                                      Thin sheets of mica for windows
  65. Ivory Black                                 Carbonized Ivory
  66. Japanese Lacquer                        Rhus vernicifera-Urushi
  67. Japan Wax                                  Rhus vernicifera-Urushi
  68. Jeweler's Putty                            Oxide of Tin
  69. Kaolin                                        Pipe Clay
  70. King's Yellow                             Sulfide of Arsenic
  71. Lamp Black                                Carbon
  72. Laughing Gas                              Protoxide of Nitrogen
  73. Litharge                                      Lead Carbonate
  74. Lead, Black                                Graphite
  75. Lead, White                                Ceruse - Lead Oxide
  76. Lead, Red                                   Minium - Oxide of Lead
  77. Linseed Oil                                  from Flax Seed (Linum spp)
  78. Lime                                           Oxide of Calcium
  79. Logwood                                    Haematoxylin spp.
  80. Lunar Caustic                              Nitrate of Silver
  81. Lye                                             Potassium Carbonate
  82. Madder                                      Acid Alizarin Blue
  83. Marine Acid                               Spirits of Salt
  84. Montpelier Yellow                      Yellow Oxide of Lead
  85. Muriate of Lime                          Chloride of Calcium
  86. Muriatic Acid                              Hydrochloric Acid
  87. Mercuric Sulfide                          Vermillion
  88. Naples Yellow                            Yellow Oxide of Lead
  89. Niter                                           Nitrate of Potash
  90. Nitrique                                       Nitric Acid
  91. Oil of Turpentine                         Spirits of Turpentine
  92. Pearl Ash                                    Potassium Carbonate Anhydrous
  93. Potash                                         Oxide of Potassium
  94. Prussian Blue                               Ferric Ferro Cyanide
  95. Pumice Stone                              Volcanic Rock (lava)
  96. Purified Potash                             Potassium Carbonate
  97. Purple Crystals                             Potassium Permanganate
  98. Pitch and Tar                                Saps exuded from Evergreens
  99. Quicklime                                     Calcium Oxide & Magnesium Oxide
  100. Realgar                                         Sulfide of Arsenic
  101. Red Prussiate of Potash                 Potassium Ferrocyanide
  102. Rosin, Colophony/Gum                 Residue from Distilling Turpentine
  103. Rosin, Tall Oil                               By-product of pulp paper manufacture
  104. Rosin, Wood                                 Refined from Tree Stumps
  105. Rust of Iron                                   Oxide of Iron
  106. Saffron                                          Yellow dye for varnish and stain
  107. Sal ammoniac                                 Muriate of Ammonia/Ammonium Chloride
  108. Saleratus                                        Pearl Ash overcharged w/Carbonic Acid
  109. Sallet Oil                                        Goose or Duck Likker (liquor)
  110. Sallet Oil                                        Sweet Oil
  111. Salt of Tartar                                  Carbonate of Potassium
  112. Saltpeter                                        Carbonate of Potassium
  113. Saltpeter Niters                              Potassium Nitrate
  114. Slacked Lime                                 Hydrate Calcium
  115. Slaked Lime                                   Hydrated Calcium Hydroxide
  116. Soda                                              Oxide of Sodium
  117. Soot                                               Carbon
  118. Spanish Black                                 Burnt Cork
  119. Spanish Brown                                Red Iron Oxide
  120. Spanish Bugloss                              Alkanet
  121. Spanish Ferretto                             Calcinate of Copper & Sulfur
  122. Spanish Red                                   Red Iron Oxide
  123. Spanish White                                Chalk
  124. Sperm Oil                                      From Head Gland of Sperm Whales
  125. Spirits                                           Alcohol
  126. Spirits of Hartshorn                       Ammonia
  127. Spirits of Nitre (Sweet)                 Ethyl Nitrate
  128. Spirit of Salt                                  Hydrochloric or Muriatic Acid
  129. Spirits of Turpentine                      Distilled conifer resins
  130. Spirits of Turpentine, rectified        Camphene
  131. Spirits of Wine                              Alcohol
  132. Stucco or Plaster of Paris              Sulfate of Lime
  133. Sugar of Lead                               Acetate of Lead
  134. Sweet Oil                                      Olive Oil
  135. Tannin                                           Tannic Acid (mostly from oak bark)
  136. Talc                                               Ground Soapstone
  137. Tincture of Steel                             Ferric or Iron Chloride in Grain Alcohol
  138. Venice Turpentine                          Premium Turps from the Larch
  139. Verdigris, Acetate of Copper         Oxide of Copper, Cupric Acetate
  140. Vermillion                                      Sulfide of Mercury
  141. Vinegar                                          Acetic Acid (dilute usually 5% to 7%)
  142. Vinegar, strong                               Acetic Acid above 12%
  143. Vitriol                                             Sulfuric Acid
  144. Vitriol, Blue                                    Sulfate of Copper
  145. Vitriol, Green                                  Ferrous Sulfate, Nitric Acid & Copper
  146. Vitriol, Oil of                                   Sulfuric Acid
  147. Vitriol, Red                                     Nitric Acid and Copper
  148. Vitriol, White                                  Sulfate of Zinc
  149. Volatile Alkali                                 Ammonia
  150. Water                                             Oxide of Hydrogen
  151. Water Glass                                    Sodium Silicate
  152. Whale Oil                                       Oil rendered from Whale Blubber
  153. White Precipitate                             Ammoniated Mercury
  154. Whiting                                           Calcium Carbonate
  155. Yellow Prussiate of Potash               Potassium Ferrocyanide

 

 

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Why I Use Hand Tools

 

As you can tell from what I have written, I am an advocate of using hand tools.  It is not that I have anything against power tools; I just feel that people spend a lot of time figuring out how to do woodwork with power tools instead of working with wood.  Power tools can be a great time saving device; they can shorten production time, make repetitive work easier and get the job done quickly, in most cases.  But in many instances trying to figure out how to make a power tool do a particular job they overlook the hand tool that can perform the same job in many cases quicker than it takes to set up and use the power tools.  A quick stroke or two over the edge with a hand plane can true up an edge preparing it for the next step in the process.  A few passes with a beading plane or scratch stock can in many cases be accomplished much quicker than it takes to set up the power router or shaper to do the same task.

I always approach a task thinking what hand tool can I use to get the job done.  If that is not possible I will resort to power tools but only when I find it difficult or too time consuming to do it with a hand tool.  Not that there is anything wrong with power tools, it is just they make a lot of noise and make a mess.  The sweet sound of a hand plane removing a gossamer thin shaving of wood from the surface of a board is infinitely more appealing than the scream of a power router, joiner or planer.  I don’t mind sweeping up some nice curled shavings from the floor that I have made, and it is not a bad upper body workout.

I could cross cut a board with a radial arm saw or a sliding compound miter saw (if I owned one), but I can take a fine hand made wooden square and scribe a line with a scratch awl, then pick up a nice nineteenth century cross cut saw and cut the board to length in a few minutes, all the time listening to the classical music playing in the background.  I could pick up a router select a proper bit, place it in the many horsepower router, make the adjustments and run a bead down the edge of a board, making sure I was wearing hearing protection against the deafening din of the tool, or I could pick up a beading plane or scratch stock and in a few minutes, in relative silence create the same profile.  If difficult grain is encountered I notice it after a pass or two, with the power tool the bad grain has split out and there is nothing I can do about the problem.

The advantage of power tools is that they are fast, very fast.  With a hand tool, if I notice that something is going wrong, bad grain direction, I am wondering from the lay out line, I can easily make any corrections necessary.  With power tools when something goes wrong, it goes wrong fast and the work is ruined.  With hand tools you can make adjustments as you work allowing corrections to be made during the process.

Woodwork is a process I enjoy doing and the thought of getting it over quickly never comes to mind.  I like to prolong it, I enjoy it, but I don’t just do the work to get it done, the process is the joy, remember it is wood-work.  But then again I realize that the job needs to get done, that is why I consider what I am going to be doing and just how exactly how I can get it done so I can get on to doing some more woodwork.

I can produce 25 feet of molding, any profile, quicker and cheaper than it can be made with power tools with hand tools.  I don’t need complicated set ups and test runs, a few adjustments of a molding plane or scratch stock and the work can be done easily.  After 25 feet power tools will always beat me.  But how often do I need more than 25 feet of molding for a particular job?  If you have a multi-plane it is easy to shoot some molding, or file a profile and make it with a scratch stock, simple hand tools that produce results equal to those produced from expensive power tools.  A new router bit can be very expensive, you have to stop what you are doing, run down to the local tool store or home center and buy the profile you need, but filing an old piece of saw blade to a unique profile takes only a few minutes, placed in the scratch stock and passed over the edge can be a rewarding event.  Granted a router bit handles end grain very well, but I make traditional country furniture and molded end grain is seldom encountered, it is difficult to do by hand and doesn’t show up in old examples for that reason.

The mass market focuses their efforts to convince you that power tools are the way to go.  Save time, save money.  These power tools are expensive, they are costly to repair and sharpen, not to mention potentially dangerous to use.  I am not trying to scare you about power tools; you can still injure yourself with hand tools.  Well I suppose you could saw off your finger with a handsaw, but that would take some effort.  Chisels and other edge tools can be sharp and attention always needs to be paid when using any hand tool.  I always keep in mind the relationship between me and the cutting edge of any tool at all times.  I have developed a habit of not catching anything if I drop it.  It doesn’t matter what it is, I just don’t ever catch anything.  I learned this after I attempted to catch a very sharp chisel that was rolling off the workbench, needless to say the very sharp cutting edge cut a large gash in my hand, so I don’t catch anything.  I have also altered all of my chisels by making matching octagonal tapered handles for them all, not only do they match, they don’t roll of my workbench.  The money spent to buy a few power tools for the shop could be spent to completely equip you with all the hand tools necessary to accomplish the same tasks and more.

With hand tools, you probably need to pay more attention to what you are doing, if your are planing the edge of a board square, every once in a while you will need to check with a square if your edge is square to the face of the board.  Pausing to place winding sticks on each end of a board and sighting down them to see that you have removed any twist can be a pleasant experience.  You may need to tip your hand plane up on edge to check if the board you are planing is flat.  You will need to use a bevel gauge to make sure the hole you are drilling with a brace and bit is at the proper angle.  With an auger that has a lead screw it is possible to count the number of revolutions of the brace to determine the depth of the hole, same number of revolutions produce multiple holes of equal depth, every time.

Ok here is another advantage of using hand tools.  If you use a high speed drill press to drill a dowel, peg or tenon hole in a piece of work, that hole will probably be smooth, straight and true.  If you drill a hole with a twist auger and bitstock it will slightly compress the fibers of the wood.  When you apply glue (and of course it should be hide glue) the moisture will swell the fibers of the wood against the dowel, peg or tenon to produce a very tight joint.

Fitting up a tenon to a hand chopped mortice by hand sawing the shoulders and paring the cheeks with a sharp chisel insures that each joint is perfectly fit.  There is nothing more frustrating that cutting a series of tenons on a table saw and having them all slightly undersized and sloppy in the mortice.  By doing each joint one at a time it is much easier to get each one fit properly without repeating mistakes when producing them all at one time with power tools.

When I was an apprentice 30 years ago, I had to learn how to use hand tools and it was a couple of years into my apprenticeship before I was allowed to use power tools.  The think was that someone new to the trade should understand the basics of hand tool use before learning how to use power tools.  If basic concepts of woodworking are understood at a hands-on level with hand tools then those theories could be applied to using power tools. 

Handmade Woodworking Tools

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