Going to Norway…

We will be vacationing in Norway this coming summer, travelling to Oslo, Bergen, and Voss. Anyone out there know of any places selling vintage Norwegian woodworking tools? Looking for chisels, or two-handled planes like the one below? All suggestions welcome!

Romsdalsmuseet (digitalmuseum.no)

A frame saw in action…

Frame saws… an oft forgotten tool

When it comes to saws, people are either in the western-saw camp, or the Japanese saw camp. But those are not the only two “families” of saw. The saws that are so prevalent in the west, originated in the UK, and would be better classified as British-style saws. The eastern saws are dominated by the saws of Japan. Western saws cut on the push-stroke, Japanese saws on the pull-stroke. But a third style evolved in Europe – something we call the frame saw. Tour any folk museum in Europe and you will see frame saws. They are the descendants of the pit-saws historically  used  to break down logs.


Frame saws (The Open Air Museum, Copenhagen).

The British use a smaller related saw commonly known as a bow saw, which is used to cut curves. As with many woodworking tools, there were once a multitude of manufacturers in Europe. Now, there are still two German manufacturers: Ulmia, and ECE.  These saws have many  benefits, not least of which, the blades can be interchanged to allow for different blade widths, and easily replaced. Tension can also be adjusted. They can be used for ripping, crosscutting , cutting curves, and even resawing.


Saws from French manufacturer Peugeot Freres

Quite a few people are making the Roubo frame saw, which is a massive frame saw often used for re-sawing. But whilst there are a number of toolmakers making Western style handsaws, there seem to be none making continental style frame saws.

Block plane depth-adjustment mechanisms (i)

There are two core types of depth-adjustment mechanisms in block planes (apart from manual adjustment). The first involves a thumbscrew which travels vertically on a machine thread. The thumbscrew engages a lever which has pins that mesh with grooves in the back of the blade. As the thumbscrew is raised, the lever pivots up, extending the blade down. Lowering the thumbscrew retracts the blade. This mechanism is commonly found on block planes with 20º bedding angle.


The second mechanism is a screw mechanism that is attached to a “sled” that moves in and out extending or retracting the blade. The screw mechanism can be horizontal, or at an angle commensurate to that of the bedding angle of the plane. This mechanism appeared with the advent of low-angle block planes, where the bedding angle was 12º, and lacked the space necessary for the first mechanism.


Older block planes often exhibit a lever based depth adjustment mechanism. The following blog posts will discuss these blade depth adjustment mechanisms in more detail.

Liogier hand-cut rasps have arrived!

The Liogier hand-cut rasps I ordered in early December arrived last week…

They were made to order, then shipped to The Unplugged Workshop, who then shipped them out to me. It seems like a long process, but the reality is that I didn’t need them urgently, and there is something inherently satisfying about having something hand-made by an artisan. They came individually stored in those wonderful plastic pull-apart containers, ideally made for sharp or delicate instruments.


They are beautiful…


… with hand-stitched patterning…



Using crappy material for furniture

I couple of years ago we bought an unholstered footstool from a vendor at “The One of a Kind” show in Toronto. It seemed very nice, but it wasn’t until later than I realized that the person building the footstool had skimped on the screw-on angled leg plates. They were thin, already had some surface rust, and were continuously wobbly because they only attach via three screw holes. So I decided I would upgrade them to the kind Lee Valley offers, tempered steel that is 0.067″ in thickness (4 for C$8.90).


Crappy hardware *and* crappy fake wood

So I tried fixing this, but soon realized that the material covering the underside of the footstool was covering up more than the wood… it was covering up a failed attempt at attaching some other leg plates – instead of 3 holes I found 7, which made attaching the new leg plates impossible. In addition the wood used is some crappy MDF-type material (i.e. not real wood). I mean you couldn’t spring for a nice ¾” ply? And use a round-head screw vs. a counter-sunk flat-head.

So I fixed the base by applying a ¼” ply sheet to the base, and then affixing  the leg plates. It’s stable and it works better. I really hate it when people skimp on a few $ and use cheap materials. I don’t mind paying for quality furniture, but not when what is hidden is clearly not quality.

Book review: Norwegian Wood

I recently finished reading “Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way“, by Lars Mytting. An unassuming book about the practical guide to chopping, stacking and burning wood the Norwegian way… and this makes it very special from the Canadian perspective. Canada has parts where the clime is similar to that of Norway, so there is a certain resonance in what Mytting describes. The book was first published in Norway in 2011 as Hel Ved, or Solid Wood, before being published in English.


Now some people may find a book solely about wood for fires to be quite strange. But Norwegians, and Scandinavians as a whole likely have a closer affinity to trees than the rest of us. Many people likely take trees for-granted, because they do not rely on them to keep them warm in winter anymore. Nor do they remember that trees absorb CO2 from the air, and release oxygen.

It is an edifying book, which I found very enjoyable to read. It goes through the entire process of chopping, drying, and chopping wood – when to fell trees, and which trees are best, how to dry wood, which tools to use, and the efficiency of Scandinavian wood stoves. I learned how green heating using wood is from an environmental perspective. The best designed Norwegian and Danish stoves apparently release a mere 1.25 grams/kg  of atmospheric dust, and can use as much as 92% of the energy potential of the wood. If you want to learn more about wood as a clean, renewable energy source, then you must read this book.

Suffice to say you will learn enough to undertake the process of building your own woodpile, but be careful because the type of woodpile you build may reflect on the type of person you are. Scandinavian folklore says you can tell a lot about a person from their woodpile. For instance an upright and solid pile implies an “upright and solid person”. From choosing the best type of wood, to the tools used to transform it from tree to fuel, to the stove used to burn it – this book has it all. By the end I desperately wanted to go out and build a birch woodpile – the only problem being that we live in downtown Toronto, and we heat with gas. But more so, I  have a innate desire to go and plant a birch forest, something that is certainly in the cards if we ever decide to buy some rural property.