Kitchen Invasion, Part Two–If the Preacher had not Fallen through the Porch, We would not have this Cupboard

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Seriously

I really wish I could make this stuff up, but Pastor Fiedler fell through this porch. Actually, these are just some of the surviving boards of the porch that the hefty pastor fell through. Read on.

Fiedler was one really funny pastor, and I witnessed his take down of one of MJ’s most repulsive in-laws–at a wedding, no less. With that said, he was also quite large, and he never once missed a free meal cooked by Agnes Olga, MJ’s mother. However, he almost missed one meal when he fell through the porch.

Background info. When MJ’s parents built their house, they did it right. Oak floors throughout, and even oak boards as the floor to the porch. To preserve the porch, they used green lead paint to keep it from rotting. Bad news–nothing will keep wood from rotting in this hot humid climate.

A couple of decades later, the fateful day arrived, and it could have been karma, as he was the first pastor of the church who could not speak German. Fiedler showed up as hungry as usual, but no lighter than before. He hit the one really weak board on the porch, and boom! Down he went, about three feet.

No harm was done to the man of God, but the porch received a death sentence. Here’s where I come in. I happened to be there while my in laws were tearing up the oak boards, and replacing them with cheap pressure treated pine. I asked them what they were going to do with them, and the answer was that they were going to be burned. There is nothing as healthy as burning boards painted with lead paint.

I offered to take a few boards off of their hands, and the result is above. I even saved some of the green paint. Hey, nostalgia, and a great story.

Fiesta Ware not Included

As my man Brecht wrote ( sorta plagiarizing Villon), where are the snows of yesteryear? I at least I saved a few of the oak boards.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Four–Miniature Planes

She is small, but she is fierce–Shakespeare

For your perusal is an assortment of small planes and spokeshaves, the latter of which are actually small specialty planes themselves (or at least function as one). The green plane is a Kunz #100 made in Germany; the middle plane is a Lee Valley copy of the Stanley #100 1/2, with a curved sole, made in Canada; and the last plane is a Lee Valley copy of the Bailey/Stanley #50 Little Victor plane, which caused quite a stir when first introduced a little over a decade ago. The small brass spokeshaves are no longer produced, but occasionally turn up on fleabay. If I remember correctly they was sold by Garret Wade, and were made by a small manufacturer in Detroit.

Kunz #100

This “Squirrel Tail” plane is just about an exact copy of the old Stanley #100. It has a flat sole, and is excellent for trimming and general work with small or green stock. It lives in my green woodworking tool bucket, as the red paint makes it easy to find should I lose it in the woods. The price is also right for a German made plane.

Lee Valley Squirrel-Tail Palm Plane

This is only one of the superb palm planes manufactured by Lee Valley in Canada. A take off on the Stanley #100 1/2 plane, this has three major improvements. The materials are far superior, the design is more useful, and the machining is about the best there is. To be specific, the handle is larger to accommodate the overgrown beasts that we have become. The blade adjustment is based on the old Victor plane adjustment–more on that in a second. The machining matches that of the innovations introduced with the LV Little Victor plane.

The curved sole makes this ideal for chair makers, though it works just as well on large carved bowls. The Stanley #100 1/2 was marketed as a “modelmaker’s convex plane.” The ease of adjustment on this new model is mind blowing, circa 1877.

Lee Valley Little Victor Plane

This is not an exact copy of the 1877 Bailey #50 Little Victor plane, but it is pretty close. Leonard Bailey introduced a newly designed set of planes that year, under the Victor name. A series of lawsuits with Stanley, Bailey’s former employer, resulted in Stanley gaining the rights to the designs. They promptly canceled the entire line of planes.

When introduced, this little plane was considered a marvel. Both the sole and the blade are machined practically literally flat, to the point that the plane could be used right out of the box. One woodworking magazine editor had the entire staff convinced they should order one the day he received it. They all did.

So it is small, but it is fierce. I used this extensively while I built the “great wall” in the previous post, and it qualifies as the leader in the race for the perfect pocket plane. Nothing is better at trimming pieces of millwork.

Brass Spokeshaves

Project too small or curvy for a mini-plane? Look for some of these little brass planes, in used condition, on the interwebs. The set has one with a flat sole, and two with varying degrees of concave-convex-osity.

I use mine constantly when carving spoons, and even when making bowls. They hang in a leather pouch I made just for these three, right next to my shaving horse, which is spoon carving central.

Here is a definite case where bigger is not better. These take up almost no space in the workshop, and if needed the whole set could fit in a tool belt. For someone who has a shop as buried in shavings as mine always is, they also create small shavings that are easy to clean up, for those of you who actually clean up your shop occasionally.

Kitchen Invasion

What a Great Wall–Richard Nixon

It happens. This is not a kitchen intervention or a kitchen rescue, this is about when your kitchen begins to invade the rest of your house. We have at least three living spaces where the kitchen is slowly creeping in. I will mention two, but describe one in detail.

In detail–I made this dough bench intending that it be used strictly for bread making. The USA made maple butcher block top is oversized to accommodate clamped on tools–too bad it’s too thick for any of them that we have. Instead, I have a clamped down meat grinder, an Enterprise #22. Which leads to the four tasks this unit now performs.

Meat Grinding/Sausage Making

The #22 grinder is such a beast that it requires a bolted down installation. The clamp on version is much less common, and less useful. This will grind pounds of meat in a matter of minutes, and in a variety of grinding thicknesses/textures. It’s clamped on with a giant c-clamp.

The sausage making tools are stowed beneath the butcher block. Essentially, these consist of a sausage plate and three sausage stuffing tubes of different diameters to accommodate different sized casings. The world of sausage is infinite, and worth the trouble, for as Bismarck reportedly said “The less you know about how laws and sausages are made, the happier you are.” He was reffering to bought sausages and purchased politicians.

Wine Storage

It’s far better to have good drinkable wine than fancy wine storage. Jacques Pepin once showed off his homemade wine storage, and it was essentially plywood boxes in his basement.

Our little portable rack is all we need, what with our regular trips to the good wine selection at our local Publix supermarket. Most of our wine is Italian, French, or German, as all three countries have strict wine regulations.

Pecan Cracker

An antique but portable item, this old pecan cracker that belonged to MJ’s grandparents has a definite 1900 industrial look. The only thing it won’t crack are hickory nuts, but I have a 23 ounce framing hammer for those. Not too many people have a Pecan cracker in their living room, but sometimes nuts need to be cracked.

Dough Station

And it sometimes is even used for what it was intended! Everything ensconced on the top can be removed quickly. If I am making my usual Creole French bread, there is not even the need to do that. Even the French baguette pan is housed directly under the butcher block top.

The last two invasions: our dining room literally has an entire wall covered with dishes and glassware. Even the bookcase next to the dough bench is being invaded, as it is now 1/8 food books. In amongst my two first edition works by Henry James are food autobiographies by Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, and Barbara Kingsolver, and sausage making books, which are handy for task #1. I should also add that MJ’s corporate home office is overseen by two shelves of cookbooks, stacked in various configurations, one of which is a strong 19″ high.

And then there is the rolling pin hanging on the wall, which is soon to be joined by another. Every living room needs a couple of those.

Stanley #82 Scraper

Scraper, Meet Kitchen Floor. Another Justus Traut Masterwork

As it is time to refinish our kitchen floor once again, I needed a tool upgrade. Our dogs take a few years to do the damage, but there is practically no finish they can’t ruin–one of them even ate the grout out of a tile floor. Therefore, it was time to hit the dreaded fleabay for a classic tool, and as usual, this hog found an acorn.

I found that the old Stanley #82 scraper has something of a cult following. A chief writer for one of the best woodworking magazines stumbled across these on fleabay, and liked them so much he ended up buying something like nine of them, giving most away as gifts. The kicker was when one person pointed out that this scraper could reach into practically any corner. Try and do that with a random orbit sander.

I bought one that was listed as a “planer,” whatever that is. Some WD, sandpaper, and a micro abrasive and the thing was bright and shiny. I also renewed the wood handles with some wax polish.

As there isn’t much detailed info about these available, I was intrigued by the original scraper blade, which has two edges bent at ninety degree angles. A couple of swipes with sandpaper revealed the Stanley logo. No big surprise there.

Double Threat

Then the extra words began to appear: “Rough” and “Finish.” After a little inspection, the two edges were finished differently. The Rough edge is curved, while the Finish edge is flat. Traut must have been a genius at multi-tasking.

The final feature is that many many scraper blades can be used besides the original one. I have already tried a high quality Swedish made Sandvik blade in it, and it scrapes like nobody’s business. The dogs will be banished from the kitchen for a good long while.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Three-Combination Planes

Yes! American Ingenuity! Brought to You by a German Immigrant!

Justus Traut was one more inventor for the Stanley Tool Company. At one time he was known as the king of the patent, as his production of designs was so prolific. None, however, are as famous as his series of combination planes, two models of which are pictured here. The small one is a Stanley 50, and the two larger ones are the famous Stanley 45, though two versions made in different decades. Alright Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my closeup.

1903 Patent Date

The smallest of Traut’s planes is the Stanley 50, which is the perfect size to throw in a tool box, and carry around. It was alternately marketed as a beading plane or a plow plane, though it will do both. The great thing about this old version is that it is simple to make new cutters for it. Just slice up an old plane blade, and grind out any profile you need.

Here’s the classic

Moving Parts

This is essentially the final form of this plane, and it has more bells and whistles than a steam engine. (The early one in the middle of the top picture has a patent date of 1894). This design helped to kill off the wooden plane industry in the US, as it will replace a cabinet full of various other planes, with only one.

The Business Side

I have to admit that I paid a whopping fifteen dollars for that plane, as I bought it at a Flea Market in Scottsboro, Alabama, from an ignorant seller. He wanted eighteen dollars for it it, but I offered fifteen. He took it, and MJ just stared at me like I was a criminal. As I am not exactly a Kapitalistenschwein, a capitalist pig, I brushed it off. I saved us three bucks.

The problem with these jokers is there are any number of parts. Here’s my box, and that is a bare minimum. The long fence in there is a bead stop, used to replace the rosewood lined fence when making tongue and grove bead board.

Pieces Parts

Those parts are for both the 45 and another Traut design, the Stanley 66 Hand Beader. While not technically a plane (it’s actually a “scratch stoch,” in that it scrapes instead of cuts), it does have multiple cutters, and I happen to have all of them. The cutter that is in the picture cuts reeds, which are multiple beads.

Scrape On

I also am about to have a complete set of the beading cutters for the 45, as I just purchased the missing link on fleabay. The complete set of these cutters will be about six times more valuable than what I paid for the actual plane.

Pouch instead of

I made this leather pouch to keep these difficult to sharpen cutters from getting damaged in my box of parts. It also looks cool hanging on the wall of my shop.

These planes will all come in handy for my Christmas presents project list, parts of which are already finished. I am certain there are more that will pop up between now and then.

Food Safe Wood Finishes

Make it Shine

Instead of using toxic chemicals, I use finishes on wooden cooking utensils made from plants and bugs. This is great, as long as you don’t mind eating bug juice. Here are the four best, from right to left, Chinese style.

  1. Linseed Oil. Flaxseed oil, which is usually heat treated to decrease drying time. (That’s an old Elijah Craig bourbon bottle, by the way.) I use the brand Tried and True, who makes a great “Danish Oil,” which dries quickly. That big Walnut scoop turned that color with just one coat.
  2. Shellac. Essentially bug secretions which are dissolved in denatured alcohol. Comes in a variety of shades, and is easily homemade. Those two mason jars in the middle are dark amber and blonde, and made by yours truly. It leaves a very shiny finish.
  3. Wax Finishes. The most durable is Carnauba wax, which is what that Liberon turner’s wax is made from. The carver’s mallet on the end is covered in that wax, which gives it a good bit of shine. Beeswax polish is made from beeswax and a combination of either an oil and/or turpentine. Terps can be a little sketchy on cooking utensils, so I go with linseed oil.
  4. Nothing. My favorite finish, which is on most of my personal utensils. As woodworkers like to say, it’s free, and available everywhere. If you really cook, your wood will soak up a nice finish in no time.

As the great food writer Michael Pollan says, don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. The same goes for food safe wood finishes. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t put that finish on your spatula.

Mallet, Part II–Hop Hornbeam Carver’s Mallet

Bring on the Bowl Blanks

I am headed toward the bowl carving stage of my giant kitchen tool making project, and decided I needed a really good carving mallet. There, in my log pile, were four logs of hop hornbeam, from a tree that died on our property. It’s one of the hardest, strongest, and heaviest domestic hardwoods, and the price was right. I rounded off a blank with a broad hatchet, and commenced to turning one.

I got the following info from https://www.wood-database.com. I’ll quote: “Overall, a difficult wood to work. Hophornbeam has high cutting resistance, (which also means that the finished wood product has good wear resistance).” The strength is off the charts as well: “Modulus of Rupture: 14,100 lbf/in2 (97.2 MPa).” That’s a tough cookie, perfect for whacking away at carving tools.

It took awhile to make on my foot-powered lathe, but I used a simple carnauba wax finish to shine it up some; compare these two finishes.

What a Difference a Finish makes

The bottom two pieces of wood are from the same log. The gouge handle is coated with linseed oil, and turned that light brown. The mallet just has a wax finish. Now it’s time to get back to work.

Making Kitchen Tools

Limitless Possibilities

Wooden kitchen tools can be made with just a few carving tools, or you can go in whole hog like I have done, and have a dozen or more tools to use. After all, the person who dies with the most tools, wins. Even though you’re still dead.

The bottom one, painted with some homemade iron oxide Swedish Red paint, is a traditional Swedish butter knife, though we mostly use those as jam spreaders. Multi-tasking is fine.

The middle one is my version of a butter knife, made from walnut. The finish is blonde shellac, which I also made, with the help of the bugs who laid the resin.

The spoon at the top is also walnut, with a food grade linseed oil finish. I made the distinction between the heartwood and sap wood part of the design. It came out nicely.

This is just part of a large set I am making for in-laws, as they gave me a stack of logs. MJ also has a niece who is renovating a house, and has a kitchen with nothing in it. That won’t last much longer.

Time to give a shout out to a great US tool company. Flexcut tools in PA make some great carving tools. These would have been much harder to make without their tools.

The folding carving knife was a present from MJ, and it has two blades of different lengths, but it insures her that she will have spoons and spatulas for life. The small drawknife is a recent purchase, but I used it on all those items in the picture. That honking giant bowl gouge took some time to find, and naturally it was being sold by my favorite woodworking store in Atlanta, Highland Woodworking. It’s a full 2″ wide on the business end, and will take out a serious chunk of wood. Bowl carving is in the near future.

Mallet, Part I–Dogwood Root Club

Seriously Hard and Dangerous

At the University of Alabama, I lived at the Men’s Honors Dorm, a somewhat notorious institution called the Mallet Assembly. It was home for everything from high minded intellectuals to infamous perverts. I prefer to think that I was in the former category.

So now I have undertaken several projects of making mallets. My first is every traditional woodworker’s dream, a splitting club ( aka, a maul), made from unbelievably hard dogwood root. The club is used to strike the back of a froe (pictured), which is a wood splitting tool. Mine happened to be made by the Amish.

One of our many thunderstorms this year blew over one of our big dogwood trees, and actually uprooted it. All I had to do was cut the root off with my old double bitted axe, and shape it right there on my shaving horse (also pictured), with a drawknife and a spokeshave. This club is full of heavyosity.

The first trial run was that piece of walnut, which it split with only four whacks. The second run was on some hornbeam, which is impossible to split. I did it anyway–after cutting through ninety five percent of the hornbeam log.

Cookbook Bench

Let’s Cook

MJ wanted a bookstand for our cookbooks that can be moved around in the kitchen, so I dove into my scrap pile and came up with some goodies. My total cost for new components for this stand was 9 1/2 cents.

Most people make these out of plywood, but I had some 1/4″ thick poplar boards in the scrap pile, along with some cherry pieces parts, and I made just a very few saw cuts. The molding on the front is actually some crown molding, which I grooved with an old Stanley 45 combination plane. I used the same plane to cut the bead at the top.

My contribution to the design was to drill eight holes in the base, and use handmade French nails as a means of keeping the books open. There are actually sixteen possible arrangements for the nails, to accommodate different sized books.

Because there are three different varieties of wood used, I finished it with a dark amber shellac, which was also made by yours truly. I did have some help from the lac bugs, which is where shellac comes from. It is also used in making candy like Raisinettes and Jelly Beans, so there is another food connection. I doubt that people who eat those even know that they are eating bug parts.

That’s it in action with one of my favorite cookbooks. You have to like a book that has both a cow and chicken on the cover.