I made my version of a saw vise with which to sharpen my hand saws, a little over a year ago. I’d picked some oak out of my “shorts” bin, that I could use to make the heads for the front and back legs of the vise. A couple of weeks ago I was in the middle of sharpening an old Disston back saw, and the vise wasn’t holding as securely, and while I was performing some work on it, the head split into two pieces. I really wanted to get it back into action, so I could finish sharpening the old saw.
The piece that broke was actually just over 1″ thick, so this time around I decided I’d go more with current convention and re-make it with some 8/4 Maple. While I was at it, I’d noticed my original design needed some revision, as it didn’t accept smaller saws (like a dovetail saw) very well. To hold the blade high enough to sharpen, the handle and part of the blade had to slide just outside an end of the vise, leading to extra vibrations and chatter with the file.
After creating my new pattern, I traced it onto my workpiece. Just before going over to the band saw, I remembered I’d planned to remove 1/4″ from the body of the work piece, so the top edge would grip the saw while leaving room for back saws. I decided to go a different route, and I cut another piece of Maple that was 1″Wide x 1/4″Deep x 18″Long. I glued and clamped this along the top edge of my main work piece, which seemed much more efficient than removing the waste material. (*Note: After completing this replacement head, I ran into a complication, but still found a way to make it work.)
While the glue was curing, I took the leg of my vise, from which part of the head had broken. I planned to re-use the leg, so I scored all along the joint line, between the head and the leg. I took a sharp chisel and made a little trough in the head material, where I wanted my hand saw to cut, so I wouldn’t damage the mating area of the leg.
I’d used my Festool Domino to join each head to it’s respective leg, with a couple of dominos on each one. This made it very easy to replace the head. (*Note: Even if it originally had a full tenon running up into the head, you could still saw the head off, and use the Domino to attach a replacement head). After I hand sawed (see above) so the remaining portion of the old head was separate from the leg, I just needed to pare away a few slivers of wood that were left behind. Now we are just waiting on the glue to cure.
With the lip solidly in place (photo above), I retraced my design onto my Maple, and I was off to the band saw. A few minutes later and I had a decent looking head, even though I still needed to clean up the sawn surface. I used my Auriou rasps to smooth out the curved surfaces and followed them with some sandpaper. The rear of the vise head needs some bevels, to allow your hands to get up close to a saw that you’re sharpening, which I created with my old Stanley #6. This plane has the right balance in it is just the right size, the weight isn’t too heavy, and it’s iron seem to cut forever, even if it is set for a fairly thick shaving. This combination lets me remove a decent amount of wood fairly quickly, while also being easy to control. Many shavings later and the shaping was complete!
I lined the original leg up against the new head, with the two surfaces that would mate, and made a couple of lines across the joint. I’ll use these with the Domino, so everything aligns when it is assembled. If you have two pieces of unlike thickness, make sure you make these marks on the surface you wish to align on the parts, as this ends up the reference surface. When I went to use the Domino on the head, the fence reached deeper into the head than I’d recalled, and it held the cutter away from the head by close to 1/2″. I quickly cut another piece of maple the same thickness as I’d used for the lip, and taped it to the inside surface of the head, so it was in the same plane as the lip. Now the Domino’s fence could ride on the lip and the new piece, allowing the Domino’s face to reach the head. I did have to adjust the depth from the fence to the cutter, from what I would use on the leg, but it was easy enough to sight in by eye since there are two spring-loaded pins that are centered with the cutter.
I set the Domino’s width-of-cut knob to the most narrow, for the holes I made in the head, while I set this setting to the middle choice, for the holes in the leg. This allows for slight mis-alignments, and still end up with a viable piece. If you choose the most narrow selection for both pieces, and you don’t hit your marks perfectly, the piece may not even go together. There is really no play when this setting is selected on both parts! Remember this if you ever buy or use a Domino!
I used two #8 Dominos that were 50mm long, which gave plenty of strength, and there was still enough room between each Domino to stay strong. To glue up the pieces, I always make sure I’m ready to roll as soon as I apply the glue. You don’t want the Dominos to swell and not fit into their holes. After applying yellow glue to one half of a Domino, I knocked it into one of the holes in the head (the holes that are the exact size for the Domino, and always the first to receive the Dominos), and repeated on the second Domino. Almost immediately I applied glue to the other end of both Dominos and tapped the head so the Dominos seated into the leg. If the head is off to one side a bit, just tap it back into alignment, but do it before the glue wants to seize. I placed the head/leg unit into a parallel jaw clamp, snugged it down, and wiped away all glue squeeze out.
After the glue dried, I checked the contact lip to see how it’s surface looked. There was a slight crown towards the center of it’s length, which I planed away very quickly. I intentionally created a very slight spring joint, so it was most hollow in the center, and gradually working out to each end. This will allow the vise to hold the saw blades very securely.
After comparing the new head with the remaining old head, I decided I wasn’t going to be happy with replacing just one, so I did exactly the same thing for the other leg. On the second piece, I decided to use the Domino again, but this time as soon as I had the final shape of the main head. It made it easier to have a flat face for the Domino’s fence to reference against. Besides applying the lip to the head after using the Domino, everything else went pretty much the same as on the first, so it was just repetition.
After bringing both head/leg units to the same level, I cut some suede leather for the inside of each jaw. I applied a light coating of contact cement onto both pieces of leather, and onto the mating surfaces of the jaws, and then waited for them to dry to the level the adhesive maker advised (25-40 minutes on my product, but if too much time lapses, another coat is required to re-activate the product). For those who’ve not used contact cement, this is the normal protocol. You apply the recently dried pieces, and apply pressure which activates a very strong bond. Then it was just a matter of trimming away the slight overhang I included in my pieces, so all the clamping surfaces would have coverage.
I was extremely pleased with both how nice the new heads for the saw vise turned out, and how well they interacted with the saws. I would highly suggest making a saw vise, but if you don’t trust that you can make that happen, then buy one. It is easy enough to learn the basics of saw sharpening, and there are at least a couple of good DVDs on the subject that can accelerate your learning curve. It is great to learn how to sharpen all of your tools, which keeps the tools at home, rather than sending them out for sharpening and waiting.
Thank you for stopping by to check out my article. I hope this might help you make one, too. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I have two of the screwdrivers that are offered by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, the No. 4 which is the stubby straight blade used on the chip breaker’s screw, and the No. 2 which is another stubby used on the split nuts on Lie-Nielsen’s hand saws (I’ve found it doesn’t fit all of my vintage saws, but that isn’t a ding, as they made it to fit their saws). When I take some hand planes or hand saws with me to another site, I of course bring these screwdrivers along, but they’ve always just been loose.
I was thinking about another potential job last week, and I had a little spare time, so I drew up a pattern for a leather holster with which I’d carry my Lie-Nielsen screwdrivers, and they wouldn’t get banged around, nor accidentally ding another tool. When you are dealing with leather, it can be very simple to lay out your pattern if the item isn’t too complicated. When you look at these little screwdrivers, they really don’t look like they should be much trouble, but lots of little details play into how easy the leather behaves. If the leather is super thin and flexible, I find it quite a bit easier, as the leather will just conform to the shape you ask of it. With thicker and not as flexible leathers, it can get a bit more tricky! I had leather that was fairly thick, but also somewhat flexible, so I was hoping it would kind of balance out.
Ok, back to talking about coming up with a pattern, which again seems like something that you just draw some lines and get going, right? Well, on cylindrical or conical items, like these screwdrivers there are a couple of ways. I initially went with a very simplistic method, which was to take a piece of paper, and wrap it half way around the screwdriver, and mark the two end points. This would, in theory, match up to exactly half the shape of the screwdriver, and since I was making it from two pieces (or halves), the two together would be the perfect fit for the screwdriver.
Ok, before I talk about the other details that also need acknowledgement, let me share what it probably the more precise method for obtaining measurements for your pattern. This second method will use a little math from school, but don’t go run and hide just yet, as I’m giving you the equation and will explain. With the shape of the screwdrivers, if you cut straight across the handle and look at the end, you’d see a circle. As some of you may recall, to get the distance around a circle (the circumference), the equation is 2πr (you multiply 2 times Pi, times the radius). Since this holster is made from a front and back piece of leather, each will deform to fit half of the shape of the screwdriver, changing the equation to πr, for each piece. If you aren’t sure how to get the radius of the handle, just measure across the thickness with something accurate, like a digital caliper. Whatever value you measure, will need to divided by 2, as your measurement is the full diameter, of which the radius is half. And if you don’t have a fancy calculator that has a key on it for Pi (π), you can just use 3.1415 which will be plenty accurate enough. Ok, that was the toughest part, and you made it through. (Or at least I hope you did. Maybe another cup of coffee??)
With the information we now know, we can draw out our pattern. After laying out the location for the stitching on one sider, measure over the distance you calculated, and mark for the stitching down the center of the holster. Measure the same distance again, away from the first line of stitching, and this will create the space for the second screwdriver. I chose to have stitching across the bottom of my holster, to keep the tip-ends completely protected. I physically laid the screwdrivers on my developing pattern, to decide how much room to allow, when the leather deforms when the screwdrivers are pushed into the completed holster. Just remember that as the two sides are pushed outward, the closed system of leather, will cause the bottom stitching to pull in towards the tip. If you have really flexible leather, this could be a decent amount, but it wasn’t too bad with the thicker leather I used.
Before I talk about the actual creation process of this holster, let me share one more caveat in the pattern/design phase of leather working. As I’ve mentioned, the leather thickness and stiffness can readily affect the end results. Even with the ideal leather and the calculated measurements I spoke about above, remember that as we hand stitch the leather with the saddle stitch, we pull both lines nice and taut after each hole. This is the best practice, as it keeps the thread/sinew/… down and protected from damage, but this also can add something to this design. Since it is taut, the stitching is keeping the two pieces together, and the force spreads out slightly, so it isn’t just at a single point. This is along the lines of sharpening when you are attempting to reach a zero radius at the tip of the blade to have perfect sharpness. In this leather, the spreading of force causes the measurements on which we based our design, to in essence shrink slightly, as the force spread is causing leather that was anticipated available to flex and shift, to be bound down. So what I’m saying, is you need to take this occurrence into consideration, so you can have a fudge factor (or whatever you wish to call it), providing enough flexing material between the areas under force, as you would have in the perfect world. Unfortunately I can’t give you a value that will always work, as the differences in the leather you may use will have a fair contribution in the amount of this behavior. Ok, so you’ll need to get busy testing and trying different materials and keep a log, so you’ll know what to expect when you again use a certain type of leather. On with this creation…
I cut out two pieces of leather, with the first the size of my paper pattern. For the second piece (the back of the holster), I added a little over an inch to the length of the front piece, so the handles wouldn’t stick beyond the leather on both pieces. I marked where I planned to stitch, along the three edges, and then also for the center row of stitching. Before using contact cement to lock to two pieces together, I always use a multi-toothed thonging tool to create the stitching holes in the top piece.
I’ve had too much variation in how the thonging tool behaves, when trying to go through multiple layers of leather, at the same time. After all of the holes are created in the front piece, now the contact cement is applied. Its a workflow that is good for me, so give it a try if you’d like. After the pieces are cemented together, I use the single-toothed thonging tool, going through the holes in the top piece that I made earlier, and creating the holes in exact alignment on the back piece.
From this point, almost everything is exactly the same as in my most recent leather project, which you can read here, except for one thing. Rather than stitching from the start to end, with one continuous thread, on this piece the outside perimeter is handled in this way, but the center line of stitching is accomplished after the other stitching is done. This center section is stitched with one continuos line of thread, but is not attached to the perimeter stitching. As I still used the saddle stitch, it is still just as strong as any other leather stitching I’ve done.
I hope this article is helpful with understanding just how to calculate where to stitch for a given item. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. You can also check out my Instagram page at @LeeLairdWoodworking and my Twitter at @LeeLairdWW.
Not long ago I was shifting from flattening the face side of my massive Soft Maple boards (8 1/2″ W x 3 3/4″ D x 75″ L), to one of the edge faces. On one board both of the edge faces were about equal in perceived work, as each had some twist and similar nasty rough characteristic. Many times I’d grab my old Bailey #6 hand plane set up with a decently cambered iron, and start with the iron way out there, just to expedite the process, as I hate just getting a whisker or two on a pass, at least at this stage. Oh, and I am talking about wood that I purchased that is basically rough, to the point where it has some fuzzy all over.
On this board, I reached for my #6 and I’m really not sure why my hand re-directed to my 9-grain Auriou Rasp, which is my medium grit, as I also have a 5-grain for really heavy stuff and a 15-grain model makers for the super fine work (Auriou rasps 1-grain – 4-grain are intended for working stone, while 5-grain – 15-grain are good for wood).
From my perspective, the far right corner of my board was elevated, as was the near left corner, as you’d expect when you have some wind/twist. I stood the board on it’s opposite side, with a wedge under one corner, to keep it from rocking (or at least too bad). I grabbed the 9-grain Auriou with it’s handle in my right hand and the tip in my left, and held it in an almost 45-degree position with my left hand leading the way. As I touched the wood, I tried to keep both of my hands at a similar level from the floor, and started near the far end of the board. Since I already knew the high area was on the right, it was easy to use that to confirm I was keeping my hands fairly level, as I expected to see wood removed on the right and nothing on the left, and the area removed shouldn’t slope to the right.
Since I’d never tried using my Auriou like this before, I made a couple of passes and then stopped to see if it was worth continuing, or if I was just wasting my energy. Surprisingly, this medium-grit rasp was rapidly bringing the high sections down, and as is somewhat usual for Auriou, it was leaving a very decent texture to the surface. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t chewing it up and/or ripping it to shreds! With the positive results, I really got into it and gradually worked my way to the other end of the board.
After the I had all of the major high areas lowered down, I shifted over to my #6 hand plane, with it set at a much more reasonable bite, and rapidly completed this edge face. When I was done, I wondered if I might should’ve tried bringing in the 5-grain Auriou, but that bad boy was probably overkill, at least for this level of stock removal.
For those who haven’t yet had the chance to use any of the Auriou line of rasps, I’ll share a tip that I found during my time with these tools. I think my first tendency with a rasp (maybe just because I’m a guy, but I can’t say for sure) is to lean into it while applying pressure, to get the wood out of the way. While this tactic will certainly remove wood briskly, the overall surface can seem like a chainsaw hit it. I’ve found that using a light touch on the downward force, and controlled strokes can still rapidly remove wood, but ends up leaving a much better surface. This seems to go for any of the Auriou rasps I’ve used (the three I listed are all the cabinet maker’s shape, with one flat side and one that is curved from side-to-side, but I also have a 13-grain in their handle-maker’s style, that has the same side-to-side curve, but also curves on the long axis, towards the tip), so if you buy or are lucky enough to receive as a gift, try this to get the best results from your rasps. Oh, and Auriou make their rasps as either a right-hand or a left-hand rasp, based on how the teeth of the rasp are created. If you are a right-handed person, and are using a left-handed rasp, you’ll end up roughing the surface rather than the teeth actually cutting like they are intended. Just keep that in mind if you are buying one of their rasps, whether new or used.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the information and may give it a try as well. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.