Monthly Archives: January 2014

Reeded Column Round-up

IMG_1455I’ve reached the ends of the reeded columns for my tall clock. Literally. The last step is to round the ends of each reed. I thought I might be able to speed this process along using a lathe to round the ends in one fell swoop, then just touch them with my carving gouge. That, however, was a waste of time – and one good column. Spinning the column at the lathe again meant that I needed to locate the centers, load the workpiece accurately and have it spin dead-on. Looking back, I should have known it wasn’t going to work. But sometimes I’m pig-headed and have to prove myself wrong before I turn to other methods. Boy was I proved wrong.

I then turned to my carving tools. There are eight column, each with 12 reeds. That’s a whopping 192 reeds that needed round ends. (That’s why I was looking for a speedier solution.) I matched the reed shape to my closest-sized carving gouge, which turned out to be a #9, 5mm tool.

The process is easy once you get started. The gouge is inverted on a reed, set close to the end then pivoted upward as the cut is made. It takes a couple of passes to get the end shaped as needed, and to keep the ends aligned with one another. The series of photos below show the actual movement. The opening photo shows three completed reeds.


Of course, there was more work to do. Each of the reeds needed to be worked a little for a better rounded shape. (I should have set the scratch beader a bit deeper, but hindsight is, well you know.) Each end was shaped and each reed has been sanded smooth. I should wrap up the hood work this week. A few inlaid blocks is all that’s left. We’ll see.

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Filed under Hand Tools, Methods of Work, Tall Clock

Broken Screws

IMG_1433A couple of weeks back, and a few times since, I’ve found myself talking or writing about brass screw installation and how to do it without problems, so I thought I’d post a few tips and tricks to refresh the idea if you’ve seen this in the past, or bring it to your attention if you have yet to read this anywhere. Brass screws are softer than steel screws (Duh!). But I’ve seen steel screws – especially screws sold at home centers – break many times, so keep that in mind, too.

The proper method to install brass screws is to drill and countersink your holes using the proper devices. I find that’s easy to follow if you’re driving 3/4″ or longer screws. Shorter screws, for me, present more of a problem, especially when driving screws for hinges. What I do is locate the center of my hole using an awl, such as a birdcage awl from Czeck Edge. Then I drive a steel screw of a matching size and with similar threads. I then pull the steel screw and turn in the brass screw.

ExtractorBut what do you do if your brass screw breaks as you tighten, or over tighten? Then you need a screw extractor as shown at the right. This is simply a tube that has saw-like teeth cut at the ends. You center the tool over your broken screw, and with the extractor chucked in your drill, spin the tool until it’s below the screw depth. When you break out the plug – this is basically using a plug cutter – the broken screw pops out. While this is actually a plug cutter, the biggest difference is that the extractor is correctly sized to an outside diameter which can easily be filled with a dowel, or other cut plugs.

There is something strange when using a screw extractor. The tool is meant to be spun in your drill while the drill is set in reverse. If after a few seconds your extractor is not going into the wood, change the spin direction.

Another interesting tidbit is that these extractors are difficult to hold in position as you begin the cut. If you have an area that you don’t want to hack up as the extractor wriggles around before it bits into the wood, there is a method of work that saves your surface. As I wrote above, screw extractors are sized to be easily replaced with dowels. To make that happen, they need to be sized to standard diameters, which means you can also drill a hole the exact diameter using a drill bit. If you drill a hole with a matching diameter through a scrap, then locate that hole perfectly over your broken screw, the hole guides the extractor. No marred surfaces.


The above photo was pulled from an issue of American Woodworker magazine. You should expect to hear about and read about many new things with American Woodworker in the coming months and years. Why? If you haven’t yet heard, F+W Media – owner of Popular Woodworking Magazine of which I am currently the managing editor  has purchased the company which owns and operates American Woodworker. You can read a press release here, if you’re so inclined to do so.


Filed under Hardware, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

Bump-cut Band Saw Tenons

IMG_1439Because I had to make the columns on my tall clocks longer than needed so I could form the reeds with my scratch stock, each column needed to be cut to length. (The blue tape held together a fracture at the end of the column – I use this same technique when turning, if need be.) Once at length, each end of the columns needed to be reduced in diameter to fit into the brass capitals. Then ends of the individual reeds are then shaped further.

My first thought was to load a column at my lathe and turn the tenon before I cut the pieces to length. I want a snug fit through the capital, and there would be no way to check the fit while on the lathe – there was about 2″ to remove off each end of the columns, so I couldn’t simply slide on the capital. IMG_1440If I cut the lengths first, I lost the center markings and, for me, that makes loading the piece on the lathe too much of a hassle (I’ve not had success remarking the center whether using a center-marking gauge or not).

What I decided to do was to cut the columns to length, then use my band saw to form the tenons – it’s a similar operation as making a bump-cut tenon using a table saw. (You can see a short video of this technique here.) In the photo above right, you see the end of the columns after its been cut to length. (You can also see that there is more work to do on the reeds.) And below you can see my setup at the band saw.


I used a bench hook to guide the stock, and used a spacer (set between the hook and band saw table) to locate the hook fence just beyond the blade. This setup is somewhat critical. If you’re too far beyond the blade, you will remove too much material. (If you’re in front of the blade, your tenon would be too fat.) I say that setup is somewhat critical because you do have a little adjustment. IMG_1445That comes from moving the band saw blade forward or back using the guide bearings on the saw. A simple tweak can push the blade forward to allow you to dial in the best cut. I went for a tenon that was just too snug to fit my capital so I could lightly sand the tenon to fit. The photo shows a closer view of the setup. (Click on the photo to see it even larger.)

I positioned the column tight to the second block – that piece has a 1/2″ notch which is the tenon length, and I’ve clamped it tight against the bench hook to make sure the two are aligned. With the column set against the second block, I spun the stock to cut the tenon shoulder. I then nibbled away the waste in one area of the tenon – it takes a bit of wiggle and movement. Once that area is flat and clean, I began the bump-cut technique. IMG_1446Back and forth into the second block while rotating the column; it’s like rubbing your head as  you pat your stomach.

When a full rotation is finished the tenon is formed. Two clocks, four columns per clock and two ends per column left me with 16 tenons to form. Taking the time to set up this method saved me time in the long run. And I didn’t waste a column that needed to be replaced with another – that would have burnt at least an hour of shop time.

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Filed under Jigs, Power Tools, Shop Tips, Tall Clock

Sometimes It’s Best to Scratch

IMG_1426After the holidays, I was back in the shop working to reed the columns for the Egerton tall clock. You all know that I’m more power based when I woodwork, so I first turned to my router and router table to form the reeds. I had a small router bit with a needle point (similar to the one shown below at right). I built a small carrier for the columns, installed the bit in my router table, adjusted the fence to cut at the center of each column then raised the bit ever-so-slightly Pointed Bituntil the two radii were just formed. I thought the cut was a bit deep, but the bigger problem was how to rotate and align for the next cut. Because I was working on the bottom edge, it was impossible to align the bit point to any layout lines. Scrap that idea.

My second power-tool effort was at my lathe. I have a jig built (shown at the right) that suspends my IMG_0311trim router at just the right height to allow a spinning bit to cut at the center on any turned stock. That jig setup, teamed with the indexing abilities of the lathe, suggested success. The bit I used, however, had a squared end (not a fine point) which resulted in a flat area between each reed that was unacceptable. And to use the bit consistently, I needed to run the bearings against the workpiece, and the cut was too deep, leaving the individual reeds too narrow and misshaped.

The only idea I had left was to scratch the design by hand. With eight columns to profile, that’s a lot of scratching. That’s why I looked to power tools from the outset.

IMG_1418The first step was to produce the scratch profile onto a blade, which in my case was an old, previously used scraper. I found this work best completed using files. There are times when you can drill out a pattern, then touch it up. But for this design, I went straight to a file. Using a square file, I cut notches into the blade to resemble a “w.” I found it easier to accurately form the notches using a square file than it was to use a round file to get straight to the radius design. As you work you make corrections to get the design just right.

With the notches cut and located, I switched to a round file IMG_1419(mine was a chainsaw file picked up at my hardware store). Fit into the notches, it was too simple to cut the design to round. Work one side, then move to the second. As this is done, make sure that the two rounded profiles stay tight to the center, and keep the point as small and sharp as possible – you don’t need a deep recess between each reed. One last adjustment to the profile is needed – remove the outside shoulders so the only bit being scratched is the recess and half of each radius design. (You can see the final design in the photo below.)

IMG_1425When I completed the design, I loaded the blade into a simple stock. I used two pieces of scrap through which I installed a couple of bolts and wing nuts. Slip the blade into position then tighten the wing nuts until the blade is secured. The carrier I built when attempting the router cut is what I used to hold the columns for scratching. To center the assembled scratch stock to the carrier, I added a couple of small blocks to the setup – #23-gauge pins did the job.

In the opening photo you can see how the jig is used. The blocks keep the scratch stock in line as the assembly is pulled and pushed back and forth until the design is formed. The blade hangs down far enough so the final depth is reached as the stock sits flat to the carrier frame. When one line is done, rotate the column and scratch a second. You can repeat this all the way around each column, but as Mike Siemsen of Green Lake Clock Company pointed out to me a while back, many of the columns found on antique clocks were not completely reeded. Because you cannot get your head between the hood and column, you cannot see those reeds. As a result, there are no reeds there. (In the past, if it was not seen, minimal time was spent making things look great.)

I have three columns ready to go, so I’m back in the shop scratch the remaining eight. Then I have to cut and fit each column to the capitals and hood. I’ll be busy for a while.

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Filed under Hand Tools, Jigs, Methods of Work, Tall Clock