Nipping at your heels, part 1

Work on the Anarchist’s Tool Chest is on hold for the moment while I wait for my new 16″ tenon saw to arrive from Bad Axe Tool Works. This meant that today was the first time I’ve had a chance to do some lutherie since May (June having been taken up with dovetail practice in advance of July’s course), and I took the opportunity to start carving the heel for the parlour guitar.


Firstly I cleaned up any remaining junk out of the bottom of the slipper heel slots using a small router plane, before planing a rebate in the neck just in front of the heel using a large shoulder plane. The rebate takes a small section of the neck (just the width of the plane blade) down to final thickness, and represents the boundary of where the heel transition will be carved. The neck the other side of this rebate will be carved once the guitar has been fully assembled and the frets installed.


The shape of the heel was then marked out on the end of the heel block first in pencil using a ply template showing just one side of the heel, and then with a marking knife to get a clear line. The use of the template ensures that the heel will be symmetrical when it is first roughed it out.


Having marked out the heel shape, the waste from the two outside corners was hogged out using a coping saw. Most of the work in roughing out the heel was done using two chisels – a 1″ chisel for coarse work and a 1/2″ for more precise paring. Some luthiers also use carving knives for this work, and although I’ve not used that method yet, it is something I would be interested in trying on a future build.  The lefthand side was roughed out first, so as to establish a target shape on which to base the righthand side. 


The chisels were initially used with the flat of the blade against the heel for coarse stock removal, and then bevel side down to carve the curved transition into the neck. 


Next time around I will write about achieving the final (symmetrical) heel shape using rasps and raking light.

The anarchy continues

Despite a very busy (and sociable) weekend, I managed to steal a couple of hours in the workshop this afternoon to work on the tool chest.


Having cinched the tool chest between four bench dogs so that it could not scoot along the workbench, I first cleaned up the dovetails on the upper and lower skirts; trimming the excess length of the bevelled edges with a fine saw before planing the ends of each of the joints flush with a block plane.


Unfortunately the bottom skirt had slipped during glue-up, and as a result the bottom edge of the skirt exposed the baseboards at one end of the chest, but overhung on the other. Rather than build up a consistent amount of overhang with scrap pine, I planed the bottom edge of the skirt back so that the skirt sits above the baseboards by a consistent height around the chest. The large Lie-Neilsen shoulder plane made short work of the excess skirt material, and allowed me to work right up against the edge of the baseboards. The result is a much neater lower skirt, and the slight variation in the position of the top edge of the skirt is barely noticeable.


Finally, I cut to length and nailed the rot boards onto the underside of the chest. These will protect the shiplapped baseboards of the chest, and can be removed easily and replaced if they start to rot (a sound reason for only securing them with nails rather than glue).DSC_0056The next thing the chest needs is a lid, although this will have to wait until my new 16″ tenon saw arrives from the good people at Bad Axe Tool Works.

There are two new additions to the contents of the tool chest. The first is this lovely reclaimed oak and sapele dovetail marker made by fellow Anarchist’s Tool Chest student Bernard Billsberry, who gifted each member of the course with a commemorative dovetail marker.

DSC_0065The second is the new plane adjusting hammer from Sterling Tool Works (and the first I believe of these to reach English shores). Equipped with both a walnut head for adjusting wooden bodied planes, and a brass head for metal planes, the hammer is finished to the same excellent standards as the Saddle Tail (reviewed previously). Sterling Tool Works, along with Bad Axe, are my favourite independent tool manufacturers; theirs are serious tools built to a high standard. And Chris Kuehn (like Mark Harrell at Bad Axe) is a ridiculously nice chap who is eager to listen to his customers and discuss what they need from their tools. But enough evangelising from me, if you need a dovetail marker or a plane adjusting hammer, then point your browser at the Sterling Tool Works website and investigate these for