Tools of the Trades – fall roundup

It is true, that the more tools you collect for your workshop, the harder it becomes to find new things. So it was with TotTs this weekend. Whilst there were many things, there were few block planes of interest. I had hopes for a Victor, but the regular dealer had none, and the Birmingham I looked at wasn’t complete. There were the usual assortment of No.4’s and No.5’s from Stanley, Millers Falls, and the like… but even then there didn’t seem to be *that* many.


What tool was in abundance? Saws. A good assortment of handsaws from tenon to panel saws, ranging from $30 to $200. The lower end handsaws, often crosscut with thick brass spines sell from anywhere from $50-80, however all do need sharpening. There was one person selling refurbished saws, both crosscut and rip. Beautifully restored, well priced, and sharpened so that they cut through wood like it is butter.


What else? Seemed to be a lot of chisels about, including a few sets from Swedish brand, Eskilstuna.


And of course a whole lot of spokeshaves – of every sort imaginable.


What did I buy? I refurbished Disston D-8, a set of four Jorgensen 10″ wooden handscrews ($50 for all 4), a wonderful Millers Falls #1, cigar spokeshave, and a German book on woodworking and design. Posts to come.

The “Oktoberfestool”

I love Festool, they make exceptional power tools. But last weekend at the viking chest workshop we used a Festool router table – and you really wonder if parts of this weren’t designed during Oktoberfest. The biggest fallacy? The height adjustment mechanism. There’s a picture of it below. Okay, so it is basically a removable crank that locks into a hex-bolt in the table. Turning the crank adjusts the router blade up or down. Okay, so that’s fine when you’re setting a height, and running a piece of wood straight through the router.

The proximity of the crank handle to the router bit.

What happens if you set up a jig to do a blind dado, which requires moving the wood back and forth, whilst increasing the height of the bit after each pass – *without* having to remove the wood? It is impossible, because the crank handle actually interfere’s with the wood, or rather the wood ends up covering the access hole. Other router tables have their height adjustment mechanisms on the side of the table, not in the middle of the table. Why not just a single pass to cut ¾” deep? In hard wood such as maple, that’s just not viable – a number of short passes will help prevent the router bit blowing out.

The solution for some applications? Build an extension crank out of a ratchet socket wrench.


Below you can see the crank in action, with a mortice being cut through the blind dado on the inside of the chest to support the tenon of the chest floor. After two increases in the bit height, the router bit pops through the top of the wood. So this design feature of the Festool router table is not exactly well thought out. Better to have a side crank, like the router table from JessEm.


Ready for Tools of the Trades?

This Sunday, it is time for the fall “Tools of the Trades” at the Pickering Recreation Complex: October 4th – 10am to 3pm.

Time again to spend a couple of hours digging through some vintage tools. If you are a new to woodworking, looking to buy a set of starter tools for a reasonable price, there is no better show in Canada. There is always a good selection of vintage Stanley, British planes (Record), wooden planes, and a few Millers Falls and Sargents. Occasionally there are also some Japanese tools, and a *whole* bunch of wooden planes. You won’t find a better collection of vintage tools anywhere in Ontario or Quebec I would imagine.


You can’t tell me *what* about the rasps you sell?

So a couple of days ago I made an inquiry with German store DICTUM GmbH, whose motto seems to be “MORE THAN TOOLS”, about where their Hattori hand-stitched rasps were manufactured. They seemed like an interesting product, at a low-cost. This is the reply I got today:

Thank you for your message.
We kindly ask for your understanding that we cannot tell any details about our suppliers.

Really? You can’t tell me where an item is made? I mean I’m not asking for the composition of the steel used to make the rasps, or the names of the people who painstakingly hand-stitched them. Naturally, then one is left to draw ones own conclusions. The blurb on their website says this about the rasps: “Our portfolio of Hattori rasps, which are cut in small batches by hand, is unique throughout Europe.

What attracted me was the price-point of these rasps. €6.90 for a 200mm (8″), No.3 cut cabinet rasp. What I now have to conclude is that they are made in Asia somewhere, likely China. Is that what makes them unique throughout Europe? I’m not saying that I’ll never buy anything from DICTUM, but I guess their “more than tools” doesn’t extend into customer service. I have one hand-cut rasp, from Czech company Ajax & Blundell – which works quite nicely (from Lee Valley). In the future I might try a Liogier, or Auriou.

If you are looking for a good source of info on machine and hand-cut rasps? Checkout this article on Canadian Woodworking – it gives you a really comprehensive summary. Alternatively, there’s a blog series on Heartwood.

The house of the future

What would have happened if houses of the future had looked like this? Were there more dreamers in the 1950s? People were able to peer into the future and try and think beyond current ideas. Okay, so some of the ideas may have been a little far-fetched, but they represented a collective ideology of what the future could be. The reality is that the future of houses lies not in more intelligent houses, but rather houses that are better adapted to the climes they exist in. Houses in colder climates should be better adapted to those cold climates. The Swedes build extremely efficient houses with thick walls. In north America we build houses covered in stucco that look like garbage and are less efficient than we would like to think. Imagine, before installing drywall, actually covering the wall studs with OSB board first (or heaven forbid plywood)? Certainly would make hanging things on the wall easier. Sure it would be a small added cost, but at C$8.00 for a 7/16×4×8 sheet of OSB, it would be a minimal cost. But we don’t even think about such things. Want to reduce the effects of climate change? We don’t need intelligent thermostats, we need to think about smarter building techniques.


More cool stuff from the past at Modern Mechanix.


Removing rust – chemical methods

When it comes to chemical rust removers – there are two main methods: spray-on/gel or soak. To get an idea of the acidity level of each of these solutions, here is a list of their pH values – the closer to 0, the more acidic a solution is (water has a pH of near 7).

Evapo-rust 6.1
Molasses 4.5-6.0
Acetic acid (vinegar) 2.4
Citric acid 2.2
Lemon juice 2.0
Oxalic acid 1.3
Phosphoric acid (naval jelly) 1.0
Muriatic acid (HCl) 0.1

The amount of time it takes to dissolve or neutralize rust depends on the amount of rust, and the concentration of the solution used. Objects should be periodically removed, and the gunk scrapped off. Note that very few tools are uniformly rusted, so rust will be removed at a differential rate. Treated steel can rust very quickly after exposure to air – rinse, dry, and treat immediately.

1. Vinegar

The simplest form of chemical rust remover  is household  vinegar, which is usually about 5% acetic acid. Acetic acid is also known as ethanoic acid, with the formula CH3CO2H. Vinegar will leave a grey finish that is a type of rust crystal that adds a small degree of rust resistance. Iron (III) oxide reacted with Acetic acid will produce Ferric acetate and water.

Fe2O3 + 6CH3COOH → 2(CH3COO)3Fe + 3H2O

Sometimes baking soda is used after the vinegar to neutralize the solution. Note that vinegar is mildly corrosive to metals, including iron, magnesium and zinc (acetic acid + iron = iron acetate + hydrogen). It also works extremely well for cleaning and sharpening files.

2. Citric acid

Citric acid is a very weak acid, but marginally stronger than vinegar. A 10% solution is adequate, so 100g of citric acid with 900ml of warm water (which works faster than cold water). Once the object has been placed in the citric acid, bubbles will start to form which means the citric acid is working. Citric acid + rust yields iron oxide, carbon monoxide, water and hydrogen.

C6H8O7 + Fe2O3 → 2 FeO + 6 CO + 2 H2O + 2 H2

NOTE that citric acid etches iron and steel – if you leave things too long microscopic etched pits can form. Lemon juice is slightly more acidic than vinegar, and has a similar effect on rust.

3. Molasses

Molasses made from cane sugar is acidic (beet molasses has a pH of 8.0). There are a number of ratios of molasses to water in the literature –  1:4, 1:6 or 1:9. Molasses such as Crosby’s Fancy molasses has a pH of 4.5-6.0 (with a 1:1 dilution). The water and molasses mixture, when exposed to air ferments, producing acetic acid, amongst other substances. The downside to molasses is that it is incredibly slow – it may take a week or so. Molasses won’t remove as much steel if you leave it in the bath too long.  It seems to be the most gentle.

4. Evapo-Rust

Evapo-Rust is a commercial product that works by chelation, bonding to iron. An iron chelator is a chemical that forms a soluble, complex molecule with certain metal ions, inactivating the ions so that they cannot normally react with other elements or ions to produce precipitates. This process does sometimes leave a black film on the iron, the longer the item is in the solution, the darker the film becomes (this black film is supposedly carbon).

Evaporust is everything one could want in a rust remover – non-toxic, no fumes, biodegradable. Amazing stuff. Could be expensive for large items.

5. Oxalic acid

Oxalic acid is an organic compound with the formula H2C2O4.  In common use it is found in a product called  Barkeeper’s Friend. Barkeeper’s Friend can also be used in a paste form by shaking some  onto a damp rag, rubbing it all over the surface and leaving it for 10-15 minutes. This is supposedly extremely good at removing rust from chrome plated surface.

6. Restore Rust Remover

A new product, Restore Rust Remover Gel, is from the UK. A gel is great for applications where a wooden handle can’t be easily removed in order to submerse the entire tool. The product contains both etidronic acid, and trisodium nitrilotriacetate. Both are chelating agents, pH neutral.

7. Naval Jelly

This is a strangely named product is actually just phosphoric acid (H3PO4). Naval jelly may have been one of the first commercially available rust removers – advertised in Popular Mechanics in the 1960s, and was available in 55-gallon drums. The phosphoric acid will convert iron oxide Fe2O3 to iron phosphate FePO4.

Fe₂O₃ + 2H₃PO₄ yields   2FePO₄ + 3H₂O

Other chemical methods

It is possible to use chemicals like hydrofluoric acid (HF), hydrochloric (Muriatic) acid – but used incorrectly (like in the wrong concentrations) both are likely to etch the iron. These chemicals have relatively harsh fumes associated with them, even in low concentrations. I would avoid the more dangerous acids in rust removal – they aren’t necessary. What about Coke? Is it at all possible to dissolve rust in Coca Cola? Possibly – it contains high levels of phosphoric acid, Coke has a pH of about 2.7.

If the rust is really ingrained, then you can build a DIY electrolysis system. Electrolysis is a method of removing the iron oxide by passing an electrical charge from a battery through the rusty metal to stimulate an exchange of ions while the tool is submerged in an electrolyte solution. For items such as saw blades it may be easier to scour the surface with synthetic steel wool/fine 400-800 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper and mineral spirits – not really chemical so to speak, but involves the use of a chemical as a lubricant.

Stay tuned for the experiments!

Making a Viking chest

Interested in making a Viking style chest? Not going to Woodworking in America (in Kansas City – well worth the trip)? Lee Valley’s downtown Toronto store is running a 2-day seminar on September 25th & 26th titled “Make Your Own Viking-Style Chest“, run by Steve Der-Garabedian. I made a hand-plane in one of his workshops a couple of years ago. I wish LV ran more of these seminars… maybe some seminars that run week-long? Building a bench maybe?

Anyways, I have signed up to make this Mästermyr – style tool chest, should be a load of fun! Now just have to do some reading up on the chest.