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Tool Collecting

Tools thrive with loving use and perish under thoughtless abuse.

Roy Underhill, The Woodwright's Shop, 1981

I started collecting vintage tools when I did't make much money.

I know that sounds strange, but when you think you are always strapped for cash you want things around you to make you feel wealthy. Vintage tools were cheap and readily available twenty years ago when I started, now I notice it is hard to find good, inexpensive quality tools in flea markets and antique stores in Colorado. It seems like collecting good user tools is "the thing to do" because they are less expensive than new quality hand tools that are on the market. Or is it "the thing to do" because many woodworking magazines and internet forums say it is?

I use hand tools by choice, they are quiet and allow me to do excellent work. When I was a framing/finish carpenter I used power tools because the job/work demanded speed and not quite so much excellence, "good enough" sometimes was too high of a goal.

Collecting tools doesn't appeal to me anymore, collecting seems a little silly now, maybe because I know that I need to make classical guitars and I have all the tools to make them. I also know that having having three or four tool chests full of tools doesn't make you a carpenter or a wealthy carpenter at that, it means you have tool chests full of tools.

Those are some reasons why I am selling off my tool collection, the best reason is I just don't need all that stuff anymore.

When my maternal grandfather was a carpenter back in early to mid 1900's, he either bought new tools or traded for second hand tools that were fairly new, none of the tools he used were considered "vintage" at the time. Why can't I buy new quality hand tools?

Right now my goal is to eventually replace most of the vintage tools I use on a regular basis with new ones, such as the rip and crosscut panel saws I purchased from Lie-Nielsen. Most of my Stanley planes will be replaced by Lie-Nielsen planes, I am supplementing my set of chisels with new chisels from LMII. By the way, those are excellent chisels. I will keep my Ohio Tool Company drawknife, it is the best one I have ever used, the Stanley No.45 plane, and a few others.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I will "blend" the old with the new and have quality tools that will help me work more efficiently.

What was that James Krenov said in The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking?

Balancing your environment in a way that gives you harmony is all-important.


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How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice

Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…

The Guitar Maker's Backsaw for Cutting Fret Slots

The overall correct process of placing frets in a guitar fingerboard ("fretting"), is far less straight forward than most people believe. A perfect job, for perfect playability, requires some careful preparation.

Anthony Lintner, guitar maker

Twenty five years ago, I bought my first fretting saw from Luthiers Mercantile. It was made in Germany and had a straight handle on it, basically it was a gent's saw.

First thing I did to the saw was to take off the straight handle and make a nice handle for it from some wonderful Claro walnut that came from a Cottonwood Creek bottom wild grown walnut. I used it to cut fret slots in dulcimer and classical guitar fret boards. The saw served me well for several years until I made the mistake of cutting some brass with it.

Well, I never did get around to sharpening the thing.

The blade is .015 of an inch thick with the teeth set at .022-.023 of an inch. I think it has 22 teeth per inch. It is a great saw and I was very sad to see that…