Friday, February 10, 2012

American Pattern

American Pattern Beveled Edge Chisel     
In the Autumn of 1949, a pattern maker named Ashley Iles began making and selling tools in a small workshop in Sheffield, England. Today, the family run business is still making and selling finely crafted tools in a factory now located in Lincolnshire.
I had been shopping around for a quality set of bench chisels without wanting to break the bank and this set I purchased at Tools for Working Wood fit the bill to a tee. They have nicely shaped and very comfortable Bubinga handles with a brass ferule. The overall lengths are between  7 1/2″ – 9 1/4″.
The first thing is the name, American Pattern. This seems to be due to the handle being shaped much like a popular Stanley butt chisel that used to be available. Already owning a few paring chisels, I wanted a small chisel that had finely tapered edges and wouldn’t kill me when flattening and polishing the backs.
I did spend some time flattening the backs but they really weren’t that bad straight out of the box. About 5 minutes per chisel brought them up to a suitable polish and I was ready to go to work.
A good size for general purpose use in the wood shop.

Polishing the backs.
I bought a set of six and added two more ‘in between’ sizes to bring the collection to eight. A good choice for anyone that wants a well made, well balanced butt style chisel.
A set of six costs just under $150. That is an incredible price for a hand tool of this quality. I’ve been using them all week in a variety of different applications and hardwoods and so far they’ve lived up to all of my expectations.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

There must be something in the water.

I recently volunteered on my sons Grade 2 class visit to the ROM and a funny thing happened.
The ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) is a spectacular way to spend a day if you’re ever in Toronto. The big-draw no doubt are the dinosaur displays but for some reason, on this day, the group I had wanted to keep moving past and we ended up making our way through areas I had never been before. When I first moved back to Toronto, a family membership to the ROM was a must and it  quickly paid for itself during that first year. I thought I had seen pretty much all there was to see but on this trip, while trying to keep up with three 7 year old boys, I discovered a new wing full of antique furniture.
The boys and I shared a common interest and our pace slowed as we walked through the seemingly endless galleries of hand crafted furniture. How did I miss this? Maybe it was new?  Starting with ancient forms and Gothic displays we worked our way through history and gazed at literally hundreds of examples of furniture from every imaginable era. Nelson, kept telling his group  “This is what my Daddy does.“  That was worth the price of admission right there! ; )
As we worked our way through the displays I was keeping one eye on the boys and one eye on the pieces so I really didn’t have time to stop and read the information offered for every one. I was more worried about loosing one of my group members and the ROM is a pretty big place. Anyhow, short story longer…I was making my way through and while lots of pieces were interesting, nothing really jumped out at me until I spied this small book shelf. Nothing too fancy but well made with some interesting inlay on top.

As someone who is always sketching furniture ideas I often ask myself what it was that drew me to the piece in the first place. Why did it catch my eye?
I was drawn to this piece more so than any other we had seen. What was it that captured my attention?
Was it the overall proportions?
Was it the wood species?

Was it the two drawers placed at the bottom?
Perhaps it was the inlay work?
I snapped a couple of quick pics with the ‘ol iPhone…

I’ve been designing some inlay and string work on a couple of the pieces in my new book and absolutely loved the style on this piece. It’s funny, out of all the pieces in the galleries made by wood workers from all over the world, through all the ages  of furniture making it was this one that caught my eye.
I wondered where it could have come from and took a moment to actually stop and read the information card.

Halifax, Nova Scotia! What a small world it is… go figure eh?
There must be something in the water.