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Episode #2: Homemade marking gauges
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SHOW NOTES: The second episode of our new hand tool woodworking show is all about one of the most essential tools for the old-timey woodworker: The marking gauge! In fact Stumpy applies his woodworking wit and wisdom to three types of gauges, building a marking gauge, a mortise gauge, and a cutting gauge; all three with just a few hardwood scraps and a little bench time. At the end you'll have a deeper understanding of this critical tool, not to mention three of them to call your own!



SHOW TRANSCRIPT: F1- What kind of woodworker are you? Are you a serious professional with a shop full of horsepower? Are you a weekend project maker with a couple of bench top tools in the garage? Or are you just a guy who likes to putter around in your spare time? Doesn't really matter which type you are, we all have one thing in common, one thing that brings us all together in front of our computer screens with our bags of Cheetos and our cold ones. We love wood. We love everything about wood, the texture, the figure, we've been caught sniffing the 2X4's at the home centers and we weren't embarrassed because we love wood. And that's what our new hand tool woodworking show is all about. This isn't a serious, get the project done as quickly and efficiently as possible kind of show. It's about learning new things, trying old techniques, and most of all, enjoying your shop time like never before. This is laid back woodworking. We're going to use tools that slice and shape the wood without the dust and the noise the hurry. We're going to explore the old ways of doing things and see how they can be part of our modern workshops. Notice I said "part" of our modern workshops, because there's nothing wrong with using power tools. I'm not going to try and shame you into unplugging everything. But I do intend to show off some of the old timey ways and the old timey tools and how those old timey woodworkers were on to something. F1- I'm Stumpy Nubs, and this is The Old Timey Workshop (INTRO) C- Hand tool woodworking is all about your hands, and your tools. Some hand tools are complex, but most are pretty basic. So basic, in fact, that you can make them yourself. And nothing says hand tool like a tool you made with your hands, am I right? So for the first couple of episodes of the Old Timey Workshop we're going to be making some of the very tools that you’ll need for all the great furniture projects we have in store. These are the basic of the basics, tools that no workshop should be without, even a power tool workshop. And what could be more basic than a pencil? You probably have them all over the shop, in various stages of dullness. But there actually is something more basic than a pencil, something much older and far more versatile. The marking knife. (Marking knife photos) A marking knife is the hardest working tool on your bench. At least it used to be back in the old timey days. But modern woodworkers have largely abandoned them. I suppose it's natural that mechanical workshops are dominated by mechanical pencils. And if you've ever reached into your apron pocket and stuck yourself with a marking knife point, you may start thinking about pencils too. But you'd be missing out on a great tool, and if you give the marking knife a chance, I think you'll agree that a band-aid here and there is a small price to pay for all it can do. (HISTORY TITLE) C- All we know about the person who invented the marking knife is that his name may or may not have been Mark, and he didn't come up with the idea out of the blue. In fact striking knives have been widely used in both woodworking and metalworking since wood and metal were first worked. A striking knife looks very much like a chisel with a recklessly pointy rear end. They were usually around a half inch wide with a skewed bevel on one end for cutting across the grain, and an awl point on the other end for along the grain and accidentally poking out eyes. This one was made from an old paddle bit. Strangely enough, despite once having a place in nearly every tool chest, you almost never see old striking knives in antique shops or flea markets. I think the reason is only a woodworker would know what they are. When the old timer died, the grandkids got ahold of them and wore them out opening paint cans and tossed them. Striking knives are very handy tools, but since they are sharp on both ends, they are murder in an apron pocket. You're either going to get sliced or poked, so I prefer keeping my awls and my knives separate. And that's what we're going to do, right after this. You can go out and buy a marking knife but making one is a lot easier than you may think. You just need some wood for a handle and some steel for the blade. Let’s get to work. C- This show might be about old timey tools and techniques, but if you want to use a rotary tool for this, I'm not going to tell anyone. Some marking knives come with a spear point like this Swedish made one. I prefer a single bevel simply because it's easier to sharpen and I find it more comfortable to use. But that means it can only cut in one direction. Since the flat side has to be against the guide, you have to change the way you draw the knife across the surface based on whether you're working from the right or left of the straight edge. If you find that awkward, you may prefer a spear pointed knife, which works in both directions. M2- Now, you've got this sweet looking knife, time to make it a friend, an awl. I probably should have told you to make two handles, huh? Instead of cutting a slot in the end, I drilled a hole just a tiny bit smaller than the diameter of my point. Where did I get the point? I use one of those really narrow screwdrivers I found at Walmart for a buck. I got the longest one I could find, cut off the handle and ground the screw end to a point. Then I hammered it into my handle hole, and sharpened the end. Now, all that's left to do is clean it up, maybe put on a couple coats of oil or something. When I come back I’ll show you all you can do with a marking knife and an awl. And here’s a hit, they’re not just for marking and awling. (TIP TITLE) F1- Pencils are great, but they just make lines. And unless your tip is very fine, those lines aren't terribly accurate. An awl and a marking knife are far more accurate, and not just for the reason you think. Not only can their razor sharp points get right up to the edge, but the leave an actual, physical reference point on the wood itself which you can then use to guide your tools. Let's say you need to hand saw a tenon. A sharp marking knife can make a nice deep kerf right where you want your saw to cut. You can even widen the kerf up a bit with a second cut and an angle to the first. Now you have a dead accurate place to rest your saw without having to worry about it skipping out of position when you start to cut. Even a quick v-notch on the corner of the board can make all the difference in getting an accurate start when crosscutting. If you're having trouble following the line on a long crosscut, cutting a kerf with your marking knife will give the blade a path of least resistance and make a straight cut a lot easier. And if you continue the line around all the board's faces, you can virtually eliminate tear out. Your marking knife is great for severing across the grain, but tends to wander when you try to work along the grain. That's what the scratch awl is for. Several light passes will establish a kerf without wandering with the grain away from the straightedge. Plus, a sharp awl poked into the right fleshy spot can prevent your kids from wandering too. You just can’t go wrong with there things! Really uses for your marking knife and scratch awl are limited only by your imagination. We're talking a lot of versatility here, which is pretty great for a tool you can make yourself. (Grandpa's Tool Box) Not everybody is lucky enough to have tools handed down through their family, but if you have an old plane, or even something as simple as a screwdriver that used to be your father's or grandfathers, it's a real treasure. I have all sorts of tools from all the way back to my great-great grandfather, many are for woodworking, others are for iron working, blacksmithing, you name it. I keep many of them here, in my great grandfather's old tool chest, and together they make up a sort of time capsule, preserving a link to a quickly fading era of woodworking history. In future episodes of the Old Timey Workshop we'll be digging through Pappy Nubs tool chest and putting these treasures back to work one by one. TB- This time I want to show you one of my favorites, a chisel. But this isn't just any chisel, it's a hand forged mortising chisel and this is one tool that should have a place in every hand tool set. True mortising chisels are big and thick, thicker than they are wide which allows them to quickly and accurately chop out a mortise without drilling out any of the waste before hand. An old timey woodworker would have two or three different sizes, that was all he needed for most work. He didn't have to own a chisel for every tenon size, he simply made his joints to match his chisels. He'd use a double pin marking gauge set to the width of his chisel and transfer the lines to the place he wanted to chop out the mortise. Then he'd use that same gauge to mark the saw lines for his matching tenon. So the size of his chisel determined everything and it was an extremely efficient way to work. These chisels are uniquely designed for the job. They are long so you can sight down them by eye to keep perpendicular to the work piece. The steep bevel not only creates a tough edge, but as you chop down into the wood fibers, the bevel forces the chisel backward, making for a very aggressive cut. With some practice, a sharp mortising chisel and some hard blows with a mallet can chop a mortise in less time than almost any other method because there's hardly any setup involved So, even if you use a router or some other machine for big projects, there's nothing like a good stout chisel when you have just one or two to mortises make. You can buy new mortising chisels from several companies today, or find used ones anywhere old tools are sold. This particular one was hand forged from layered steel probably back in the 1840's or 50's. In fact family legend states that Pappy Nubs took this chisel to war with him in 1863 where he used it as a makeshift bayonet, successfully fighting off two Confederate charges and one Union advance at Gettysburg. But that's another story… F1- That about wraps things up for this episode of the old timey workshop. In our next episode we'll be working on another essential tool, the marking gauge. Until then keep your tools sharp, your wood dry, and your Stumpy Nubs safe. See you next time!

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