Cool Tools, and the Beauty of Being Wrong

I like tools. Big surprise to everybody. It’s a rare day when a new tool gets a permanent place in my shop apron, but my new Gerber 600 does.


It handles well, feels good to use, and it has a lot of functions that I reach for a lot – particularly when I’m doing adjustments or setup to power tools. It saves me going across the shop to the toolboxes and digging around for the pliers/screwdriver/whatever I need to adjust a fence or a jig or whatever the task at hand might be. Merry Christmas to me (thanks, mom).

On the other end of the scale is something very far removed from the various blades, files, and bits of the Gerber. A few Christmases back, I was given a couple of old drawknives. That’s not exactly a tool I reach for every day. Mostly, I just don’t need one. On the occasions I need to round something, I use a spokeshave… and I seldom have to hog off much stock. But recently, I found myself needing one, and decided to reexamine the ones I have.

One is extremely large, and I’ll address it another day. The other, a Fulton #8, is about the right size for the work I needed to do. But it had some problems. (Actually, it was a mess, and I thought it might not be salvagable.)

First problem: rust. Again, big surprise. I hate dealing with large amounts of rust. Mostly because I hate dealing with rust remover. If you’ve ever used naval jelly, or any other serious rust remover, you’ll know why… phosphoric acid is nastly. Smells bad. Really corrosive.

Recently, I heard about a product called Evapo-Rust. Supposedly non-toxic, non-corrosive, non-smelly. My first thought? “Nonsense. Can’t possibly actually work.” My second thought? “Anything is better than naval jelly.”

Yes, it really works. It works beautifully. The end result is a little different; it removes rust and leaves a light grey patina. It also takes longer – I had to soak it overnight. Fortunately, I’m not in that much of a hurry, and I’m never going back. A little mineral spirits and some 220-grit sandpaper, and it was vastly improved.

Second problem: Way too much rust.

20120129-201553.jpg A couple of sections of the metal holding the handles on had completely corroded away. Replacing them was going to be a real problem. Instead, I decided to fill the missing areas with epoxy. The problem was goign to be keeping it from just dripping out before it set, because it needed to actually build up the missing metal. I grabbed an old tube of caulking, and ran a bead around the area to be filled, and overfilled it with a mix of epoxy and a few drops of dye. When it was set – but not set hard – I scraped off the caulking, and trimmed the epoxy fill to shape.


After the epoxy had set completely, I sanded out the handles (and the epoxy), ragged on some dark walnut dye, and finished them with oil and the Beall wood buffer. Sharpening it meant reshaping the edge, but I wasn’t comfortable doing it on a grinder. The edge was too thin and fragile to do it without inadvertently changing the curve.

Fortunately, the WorkSharp is perfect for this kind of work. It took a couple of minutes on each grit, and viola.


It took a great edge, and I stuck a piece of cherry in the vise and started. It feels good, cuts beautifully, and leaves a great surface for a finer tool like a spokeshave.

This one’s going to get a new place of honor in my tool cabinet (location to be determined). And I thought it was a junker, and that I wouldn’t use it much. Wrong on both points. Excellent. Sometimes being wrong is cool.

It may not be beautiful, but it’s going to be fun to use. For today, it’s 5:00, and time for a beer. And beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.


Ross Henton

Christmas Doesn’t Mean December

It’s been three months of almost non-stop travel for work. I put on my shop apron, move the Christmas wreath and the ice cream freezer off my bench, and suddenly, all’s right in my world again.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I got a late start on a picture frame for Brian and Tia – but I realized I can’t actually post this until after giving it to them (I doubt either of them read this, but with my luck, they’d see it within ten minutes of posting). Did I actually have it ready before Christmas? Of course not. So between late construction, late delivery, and lots of travel, this post is a little behind schedule.

I decided to do something pretty simple. Originally, I was going to do a 1/4″ string inlay, but I realized it would be even easier to just build the frame with three strips – one 1.5″ strip of padauk, one 1/4″ strip of maple, and another 1/4″ strip of padauk. Scrap wood is a wonderful thing.


This was simple – just ripping the strips to width, passing them through the planer, and gluing them together. The maple strip was slightly wider than the others, but it didn’t matter. It was two minutes with a jack plane to bring it all down to the same thickness.


This is the sort of operation where the Roubo really, really shines. One end in the vise, one holdfast holding it against the bench front, and it was perfectly aligned and rigidly held for planing.


In the past, I’d have set up the router and used it to cut the rabbet for the glass and the matte. That meant putting in the right router bit, setting the fence width, setting the bit depth, and cutting the rabbet in about three or four passes to avoid tearout – changing the bit depth each time.

This time, I cut the rabbet with my new/old Stanley #78 plane. it took less time to cut the rabbets in each frame section than it would have to set up the router in the first place. For this kind of work, I’m never going back.


Splines for the corners were cut and planed by hand, and the finished frame got two coats of oil, one coat of sanding sealer, and two coats of lacquer. I’ll probably always do some operations by machine, like long rip cuts and stock thicknessing. I say that today, but it keeps changing… and every project, I find myself doing more handwork, not less. It’s amazing how many operations are faster by hand than by machine. Go figure.

Oh, and sometimes redefining “scrap” is worth considering. The cutoff pieces from the miters made an interesting wine stopper.


Ross Henton