Friday, January 9, 2015

A Case For Sharp Tools Pt. 2

In my case for sharp tools will reside this set of dividers, hand forged by blacksmith Seth Gould, and which was gifted to me recently. But before I talk about the dividers, a little back story.

Some months ago Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks posted about his forging hammer by Gould. Not wanted to be left out of the picture once Seth got too busy, I put my order in earlier this fall. But not for a forging hammer. I wanted a hammer, of 375 gram weight, for driving chisels and cut nails. I've been using a mass-produced Japanese hammer, which I like, but I wanted something with a little more charm. I've admired Seth's work since Raney first pointed me to his website.

I asked Seth to make my hammer very plain. I'm increasingly attracted to simple looking tools, so I didn't want an overt amount of file work on the tool. Just enough to put it above a basic workaday design. The head is square in profile, with file work only on the top arrises. The faces are both slightly crowned, which works well for driving chisels and traditional cut nails (or wire nails). One thing I never liked about my Japanese hammer were the two different faces. I would use the crowned side for driving nails, but was always annoyed by having to remember which side was crowned when driving nails flush. The flat face does not work for that, but a crowned face works for both nails and chisels just fine.

I told Seth that I wanted my handle to be like Raney's forging hammer, that is, with a charred ebonized finish. I've been experimenting with this finish a bit on my own lately, and for certain things, it is incredible. You can more or less ebonize the surface in just a couple minutes, and it has the added benefit of somewhat hardening and burnishing the surface as well. It's very earthy and natural. Wondering about finishing larger pieces of furniture using this technique, I stumbled on this video:

The aspect I like most about Seth's work is the the thoughtful use of textures. These dividers look as though they jumped off the pages of Smith's Key, or A Pattern Book Of Tools And Household Goods. They look exactly like an engraver's plate come to life.

Here are more elements from my case for sharp tools. If you've not done double bevel marquetry, what are you waiting for? Dust off your scrollsaw, mount a jewelers blade, and make flawless inlay. It's a fun and easy technique.


  1. Those dividers are divine. And I agree, the simple lines of the hammer are much more attractive. Love the way the lamb's tongues turn into the bevel.

    And, once more, your precision work always sets a bar that I can see and think to myself that maybe if I work really hard, and practice... and practice... and... practice... that maybe in 20 years I might be a little bit closer to doing something half as good. Still a laudable goal in my book.


    1. I'll say it again Ethan. Build something that pushes your skills. Anything. I never thought I could do this sort of work either until I built my first lute. That changed everything. I went from making comparatively clunky Morris chairs to inlaying ivory in rosewood. I never thought I could do it until I dove in and tried. Many aspects of finer work are simply what you already know, just scaled down or refined a bit. I think the vast majority of the skill required is having the tenacity to see a project through without burning out, and having the patience to try again when you don't succeed. To keep things fresh I sort of view each element as a sub-project, and take satisfaction from completing each section. Usually, I find myself a little surprised when the thing is done, as I wan't paying attention so much to the entire piece.

  2. Is that a polissoir he's using in the video?

  3. On the mmxv sign, how did they get the grain pattern on the frame to look like that with the zebrawood?

  4. That hammer looks better than Thor's hammer. But is it actually good for chiseling?


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