Copying tool makers marks (ii)

Apart from the smoke prints, which seem quite magical, I experimented with another couple of techniques which work in different situations. Often the imprints on metal tools aren’t perfect, so it may be impossible to produce a good print with the smoke technique. These techniques involve the use of a very soft pencil or graphite stick (both at least 6B) .

Graphite sticks like this soft 6B can be found at art stores.

One technique involves using graphite in a similar manner to the smoke print. Rub the graphite stick over the imprint. Apply the clear tape to the mark, in the same way as for the smoke print. This doesn’t work so well with fine lettering or details. A second technique is often used to make rubbings of objects with texture, like coins. Place a piece of white paper over the imprint and rub with a pencil. This technique works well with defined imprints, but those with fine details will not work very well. The example below shows some successful (left) and not-so-successful attempts (right). The biggest problem is that due to fine imperfections on the surface, the background will not be uniformly dark.

Rub prints using a 2B pencil

One final technique uses a graphite marker as a glare suppressor, and simply involves rubbing it over the mark. This has the effect of helping to reduce the amount of reflection produced by the surface. I then use natural light, and photograph the imprint at a slight angle.

Photographed tool marks using graphite to suppress potential glare.

The ease of copying marks is also dependent on the type of marking. Markings that are imprinted with U-shaped straight furrows are easier to imprint than those that are V-shaped.


Maintaining our everyday tools

Sometimes the tools we use everyday are the ones we tend to forget. The paring knife that is the workhorse of the kitchen, but need a sharpen, the file that needs a clean, or the everyday blockplane that just needs some TLC. That was my Veritas everyday blockplane, the workhorse around my house, used to trim this, smooth that. I had forgotten the last time I really gave it a clean. Sure, blades need honing to maintain that uber sharpened edge, but sometimes the other moving parts get forgotten. a bit of sawdust trapped here, some slight surface rust there.

When I opened up the plane, I noticed that the Norris style blade depth/lateral adjustment mechanism barely moved in its housing, some of the planes crevices has accumulated a bunch of sawdust, the toe-plate had gummed up a little, and the sides and sole of the plane had suffered from what one would associate with “patina”, but was likely the odd drop of misplaced glue, and pine resin from a some wayward board. The first thing I did after disassembling the plane was attempt to remove the Norris adjuster. Not an easy task, and I imagine that was attributed to a combination of surface rust, and old lubricant. Once it finally came loose, this was, it seems, the case. Because the adjuster has a hollow inner cavity, it is likely over time that some surface rust would appear. The adjuster shaft also had some surface rust.

The rust I dealt with using some Camellia Oil and a simple kitchen scouring pad. This will get rid of the surface rust, protect the surface, and provide some lubrication for the joint. I used the Camellia Oil to clean the whole inside of the plane as well. If there is tougher surface rust, then I use a 1000 or 2000 grit Silicon Carbide sanding sheets. The adjuster cavity also needed a clean-up:

I performed the same technique on the adjustable mouth,  cleaning off the gunk, then giving it a slight sand.

The last bit of maintenance has to do with the body. Here I use a 2000 grit sanding sheet in combination with the Camellia Oil to remove some of the grime from the surfaces, and on the sole in combination with a surfacing plate.

The end result is a clean, well-lubricated tool, which can get back to the day to day work around the house.


Gift guide Xmas 2017

What to buy a woodworker/artisan/craftsperson as a gift? Sometimes it’s hard because some of us like what we like. But there are plenty of small gifts that just about any woodworker would love to get. I’ll split these up into reading and tool related:


  1. An issue  of Mortice & Tenon magazine.
  2. Robert Penn‘s book, “The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees”.
  3. Just about any book from Lost Art Press, like The Anarchist’s Design Book.
  4. One of the myriad of books on spoon carving, and there are a *lot* at the moment. I am yet to find a poorly written one.


  1. A Japanese mill-tooth file (Lee Valley). I wrote a brief review on these, and I can’t get over how incredibly useful this tool is.
  2. A wooden rule. Available in 24″, 36″, 48″, 60″, and 72″ lengths (Lee Valley, Highland Woodworking). When is it not useful to have a long wooden rule floating about?
  3. A Lie-Nielsen No.102 bronze body low-angle block plane. A great little worker!
  4. Some Camellia oil for tool care, from The Unplugged Workshop.
  5. A tool carrier. One of the best presents I ever got. It’s the place where all the none-woodworking tools hang out. Pliers, screwdrivers, allen keys. Easy to lug about, and keep everything in one place. My carrier is made by Kuny’s (they’re in Alberta)
  6. A carving knife to go with a book on spoon carving, and maybe a piece of easy-to-carve wood. I bought a couple of Mora knives from Bushcraft Canada. Also available from Canadian Outdoor Equipment.
  7. An axe. Yeah sure, a zombie apocalypse may not happen tomorrow, but an axe is something everyone should have at least one of. If you’re into carving then maybe more. Bushcraft Canada has a great selection of axes, including the Djarv handmade axes from Sweden.
  8. A Japanese saw, like maybe an all-purpose Nakaya Kataba BIG-1 from BigBear Tools.
  9. An Unplugged Workshop saw bench kit.
  10. A dripless glue bottle (Lee Valley), because everyone needs a better way of dispensing glue!

My tool carrier, filled with screwdrivers, electrical gear, pliers etc.

Tool review – Japanese mill-tooth file

One of my favourite tools at the moment is the Japanese mill-tooth file, which I really prefer to call a rasp, because it has a similar effect – its capable of hogging off a lot of material (or even more effectively, a planing rasp). I like it because it works as though the face of the file is covered with hundreds of tiny plane edges, essentially shearing material off. These files are made by Japanese company Iwasaki, and are considered sculpting tools.

The face of each tooth on the file is formed to allow for a mini chip-breaker. This helps break the shavings off and helps prevent the file from clogging. Here is a close-up of a tooth from the Iwasaki website:

The type of shavings produced depends on the type of wood being filed. I have noticed that harder woods like Ash tend to produce small shavings, whereas softer woods like cherry produce long spiralled shavings.

Ash versus cherry shavings

Supposedly, the files produce a surface equivalent to using 280 grit sandpaper. Below is a piece of ash which has been filed. The surface is extremely smooth. The file works well moving 90° across the grain, or diagonally. They work well in places too tight for a  plane can’t get too.

I have one flat file, but will likely get a couple more. Lee Valley carries a bunch of different types, but for more sculpting oriented tools head over to Dieter Schmid Fine Tools, or Highland Woodworking.

A *good* deal on files and rasps

Was down at Atlas Machinery on Queen St. West this afternoon, buying a sanding pad for my Festool sander, and came across this great selection of new “old stock” files and rasps. These have been sitting in the basement for 40-odd years. And talk about a great deal!

I bought a couple of 12″ Tome Feteira smooth cabinet rasps for C$7.50 a piece (a box of 6 is C$30), and a 14″ 2nd cut file made by Stubs, (Lancashire, England) also for C$7.50. Stubs stopped making files in about 1990.

So I ended up buying five files and three cabinet rasps. Sightly *overkill*, but these are fantastic. The files will be perfect for sharpening axes, scrapers, and the like. They are only in-store, but if you’re interested, call them up, I’m sure they would ship.





Need some tools? Sunday is Tools-of-the-Trades

Looking for some tools for your workshop? The fall edition of one of the best tool shows in Canada is nearly upon us! This Sunday, it is time for the fall “Tools of the Trades” at the Pickering Recreation Complex: October 1st – 10am to 3pm. Whatever you are looking for, there is something for everyone, from wooden moulding planes to whole sets of metal planes. Stanley, British Record, Millers Falls they’re all there. There is no better collection of vintage tools available anywhere in Ontario or Quebec.

If you’re heading along for the first time – a couple of tips. If you see something you like, buy it quickly. In 5 minutes it may be gone. I learned this the hard way once or twice. I have picked up a few good bargains over the years… last spring a large frame saw for $55, and another time, a series of four wooden clamps for about $10 a piece. Secondly, don’t haggle too much. If a No.5 Millers Falls is marked at $70, then don’t offer $40. Remember the time and energy it takes to find these tools. Lastly, old tools can easily be restored. Don’t let a Swedish E.A.Berg chisel encrusted with rust for $7 stop you. Rust can be removed, and edges can be sharpened.


Pencil sharpeners are tools too!

When we think of tools, sometimes we forget about the really small ones! Mechanical pencils with 0.5mm leads are okay, but aren’t that well suited to everyday (fine) woodworking. Old-fashioned wooden pencils though are perfect for the job, provided they are kept sharp – and that’s the job of the sharpener. But not any old sharpener… cool ones made of aluminum and brass from Germany!