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September 2009

We all have our vises

Recently, Chris Schwarz posted a question about a mystery leg vise. Seems this odd duck had a dowel mounted on the bottom of the face and no one could figure out just why it was there. I remembered a vise that I've lugged up to a tailgate or two with hopes of selling it, with no luck so far.




This may not be an exact replica of the vise Chris is talking about, but it struck me that perhaps the two have something in common. Mine has an adjustable back plate that allows the user to lift the entire vise, front and back jaws together, straight up or drop the unit till the foot hits the floor. This one has a common looking bottom tenon with holes to accomodate pegs. I wonder if the vise Chris is talking about was also intended for mounting on an adjustable backplate? Even if not, here are a few images of the vise (which I may just keep and mount on some bench. It weighs in around 50 lbs).


And while we're on the subject of vices, here is an oddball vise from I don't know where:

Till next, Gary

Dig We Must

Con Edison, the New York City electric company, has the following phrase on their barricades: "Dig We Must". Or at least they used to when I was a kid. I'm doing much the same thing over at the Free Stuff part of the Toolemera Press website.

Which is to say that some things are looking good and some things are not. I'm making some changes to the gateway page as well as to the lead-in pages for Trade Catalogs and Books & Booklets. Along the way I discovered that an entire page of trade catalogs has disappeared. Plus there are some CSS coding errors that have played havoc with the trade catalog pages. I'm working on trimming the CSS codes to the bare necessities and some of those necessities are going through those teen age years.

As I am sure that the major part of the internet is now quaking in it's boots (is the internet an 'it', a 'they' or what?) at the thought of any problems within my website, please rest assured that the fixes are in the works.

Till next, Gary

Would You Like An Espresso With Your Book?

The future is now, and the future looks bleak. At least for readers. For the business machine service industry, it looks great!


Here is the new EBM 2.0, known to the intelligentsia as the Espresso Book Machine 2.0. The EBM is touted as the New Thing in print on demand, or as I prefer to call it, Books On Caffeine. What we have is a fairly standard photocopy machine/computer/RubeGoldberg android that spits out the book of your choice (so long as your choice is offered by EBM) in, well, enough time to enjoy a cup of espresso.

Personally, I don't like espresso. Green tea is more my preference. While I can understand the yuppie thrill of having a book made for me in a very long instant, I don't see the advantage or the profit. I do see a major increase in the business machine service industry. All those moving parts are sure to bring in tons of bucks in service contracts. So take a break with a good cup of coffee or tea, sit back, relax (if you can with all that caffeine pumping through you) and enjoy the show. Here, for your enjoyment, is the EBM 2.0 in pure living Youtube color.

Till next, Gary

PS: For a fascinating discussion of the state, or mis-state of print on demand, please check out

All Books Are Not Created Equal

Let's talk a moment about books. A topic of discussion I rarely indulge myself in. Despite my heavy focus on the books of the Manual Arts movement, the silver lining can be tarnished at times. While reviewing some titles on my shelves, I picked up "A Boy's Workshop", 1884, by A Boy and His Friends, introduction by Henry Randall Waite (who is, I believe, said 'boy'), Lothrop & Co., Publishers. A nice navy cloth cover with attractive gilt titling in a florid Victorian script. A goodly amount of engravings to compliment the text. But.

"The typical American boy, at some period in his life, has a taste for the mechanic arts. Before he is out of pinafores, he surreptitiously lays hold of edged tools, and with unlimited self-confidence tries to make something. If his success lies chiefly in the direction of making pieces of furniture and bric-a-brac, and the covering of his juvenile apron with gore, followed by a tableau in which a shrieking youngster, an angry sire and a sympathetic mother are about equally prominent, the effect is merely to determine the amount of the boys' grit, and to prepare the way, in the battle of the future, for the survival of the fittest. While a certain number of the pinafored experimenters, pensively regarding healed gashes and flattened thumbs, will ever after sedulously avoid contact with chisels and hammers, the plucky boys, who form the majority, will hardly wait for the shedding of belladonna plasters, and the bleaching of gory aprons, before seizing upon the instruments of their discomfiture, with a firm determination (founded in the boyish belief in the intelligence and moral responsibility of inanimate objects) to let those tools know that they know how to handle them without getting hurt." and so on.

The use of 'sedulously' aside, this book could be boiled down from 220 pages to 10 once the extra words were excised. The writer rambles on with so many tangential musings that the focus of the projects is lost in his after dinner cordial and cigar. I wonder if he ever picked up any sort of tool on his own. He misnames tools and their functions, provides engravings that are woefully weird in perspective and in some cases, downright frightening. I'm still having nightmares.

Still and all, the book is clearly well used and well thumbed through. I can only guess that out there are the remains of Waite's misguided attempts at imparting his wisdom to the boyish masses. Girls need not apply. I also suspect that a student of Waite was responsible for some of the more peculiar design aspects of many Victorian houses.

Till next, Gary

Wanted: A whole lotta answers

With apologies to Led Zepplin, at the auction last week, while selling in the parking lot, a few folks stopped by to ask questions about what tool to use for a given purpose or where to find good introductory information on hand tools. Well, it's not as if I am an all around expert but as a library type, I do tend to file away lots of hopefully not-too-useless bits of information in my head. I tried my best to answer what I could or to re-direct to another person who would have a better answer. Or any answer.

What struck me was the focus of the questions. These were people with beginning or intermediate skill levels who wanted to know about some fairly advanced or esoteric topics such as drawer bottom planes, sliding dovetails, the difference between a hollow & round set and a rule joint set, etc. There was a sense of confusion as to where to start learning along with a desire to jump in with the difficult stuff. 

Over the past year I've been re-reading a great many books on my shelves with a focus on 19th Century and early 20th Century texts on the manual arts. In addition, I've been hunting down new titles as well as earlier versions of some titles to see if there had been substantial changes in the books during subsequent editions. Or, perhaps I was just looking for a good excuse to buy and read some more books. Along with this has been considerable correspondence I've had with various people concerning the current focus of woodworking books on the advanced 'showy' & 'sexy' tools and techniques that lead people away from the basics that are needed in order to attain that showy feel. Apologies for the run-on sentence. I get James Joycey every now and then.

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