Mathieson Planes

Mathieson Bridle Planes

If you hunt for the older generation of tools from quality makers, as I do, you’ll know how excited I am to have found these yesterday. A Mathieson Sash Fillister (No.14) and Mathieson Plough Plane (No.12). If anyone has a suitable (grooved set) of Mathieson plough plane blades, please let me know, I need to locate a set as the plane has none.
I’ll shoot some pics of the planes in use soon.
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New tools added…

The cupboards over at Hackney Tools Towers are getting a bit full and so I’ll be loading up the For Sale page over the next few days. Please head on over to see the first batch of tools I have for sale. More coming soon…

Hand Tools History Planes

The Small Things

Today, whilst going through a large batch of tools I’ve recently purchased, I was struck by the amount of handmade tools and tools with good repairs. The gentleman who owned these tools lived in the Midlands and was a master carpenter. Three of the smallest tools jumped out at me and I just had to share them, they are exquisite.

Hand scraper1
Hand scraper2
Hand scraper3
I think these small hand scrapers were commercially available, but I’m not 100% sure about that. In any case, this particular one look like it could be craftsman-made. The quality of the wood is superb and looks to be two different types. Can anyone please tell me what the wood might be? It’s very dense and hard, with the tightest grain. The surfaces almost feel french polished. To use it, you would have inserted your scraper blade into the gap and this would have helped take away the aching fingers and the heat generated by the scraping blade.

Tiny square1
A tiny square with a bevelled blade. I haven’t check it yet, but I bet it’s dead on.

Small side rebate 1
Small side rebate 2
The loveliest little side-rebate plane with adjustable fence. Again, made by the craftsman, probably for one particular job. The wedge tightens easily and well, but is obviously sitting very low in these photos as it needs a blade. I’ve hunted through the box to no avail. I’ll try a small plough plane blade and see if that sits well. Other than that, might have to see if someone could make one for me, I’d love to see this in use.

Practical techniques

From woodworking to beekeeping

The best thing about buying and selling old tools is that you get to meet some very interesting people. The most recent encounter was with a gentleman by the name of Mel McMahon, who purchased some G.Steadman round moulding planes from me.
Our conversation about woodworking and respect for traditional craft led to an interest in ecology and it turned out that Mel was also a beekeeper. Not a man to go out and buy hives, Mel had constructed his own
and gave me lots of information about the hive construction, the colony, varieties of different bees, the reasons for current reductions in bee populations, so much fascinating stuff. I asked Mel if he could possibly photograph some of his bees for the blog with some caption information and this is what he sent.

‘This image shows one side of the frames we use. Drones (male bees), (sized foundation) cells and used in this case by the bees for honey stores, capped honey to the upper part of the frame. The bottom left hand corner shows a section of the wax foundation we use to start/direct the bees and just to the right, along the bottom bar two of the wire re-enforcing strands in this foundation.

These frames are approximately 14″ x 8.5 (brood size) and the shaping of the top end of the side verticals ensure these frames are self spacing i.e. a constant gap between all. The brown colouring on these frames is propolis, a gummy resin secreted by trees and collected by the bees as a cement; used for gap filling and sticking these frames down. The bees don’t like movement inside the hive (like us with that wobbly bench). Similarly the yellow plastic ends, just a slightly wider spacing’.

‘Above is a similar frame but with worker sized foundation, capped brood to the majority with stored/capped honey to the upper. The empty ‘W’ shape cells are where the wire foundation runs through; the queen is selective enough not to lay eggs in these cells, but all made of new wax and a nice compact brood pattern’.

‘This image is even more interesting, no frame just a top bar, so the bees have built their comb off this, hanging down in the dark. It is fixed at both sides to the inner walls of the brood box, hence a long thin (sharp) ham knife works fine.

Double sided (maximum use of their valuable wax),a better compact brood area with no wires. All looking more natural, multi-coloured pollen (the protein in the bees diet) to the left hand side and upper left hand side of the brood area, some pearly white (not yet capped) larvae.

Probably 3lbs of honey in this frame, not that it would ever be extracted as it’s the brood area. Full, maybe 5lbs+!
As summer turns into Autumn and the queen decreases her egg laying, this brood area would similarly decrease and become further honey storage for the winter months ahead’.

‘The last picture shows how these frames hang and are removed from a colony; not recommended practice you understand, but one learns good handling and the ability to read a colony and its mood.

Not such a good photo; some years old and a laminated scan, but clearly not the “Killer Bees” we hear about!’

Words & pics – Mel McMahon


Machines of the American Wood Working Machine Company

A recent post by Jeff Burks on the Lost Art Press site talked about a resourceful chap who could repair the heading planers from a wood shop, (a nice article drawn from The National Cooper’s Journal of 1906).

The skills of the man and his repairs got me thinking about the older woodworking machines and I’ve since been poring over some beautifully restored examples, not least the ones shown on the site of the American Wood Working Machine Company.

Now I’m not particularly crazy about machine work. In my short spells inside ‘proper’ commercial workshops, I’ve seen a large piece of lumber been thrown across the shop from a standing router and a near injury from a spindle moulder that hadn’t been set up properly. Another guy I know who makes picture frames won’t even let his employees of ten years use the spindle moulder. When asked why it’s clear he’s seen something he doesn’t want to see again. Quite often when I’m buying tools I meet people with missing tips of fingers, or those with whole fingers missing.

So yes, I’m rather more keen on hand tools, but having said that, I think this is largely because I have never been taught what each machine can do or shown how to use them properly. Some modern machines like the Sawstop have safety features built in, to stop injury, but I wonder whether this makes one a little blasé? Maybe trusting purely in the machine is rather like giving up personal responsibility?

The site I’ve linked to is quite fascinating for me. Not only does it show the amazing work these older machines can be made to do, but it also shows that with proper upkeep and maintenance, they are perhaps not quite so scary as I might believe. The restoration work on some of them is also superb. I couldn’t find the author’s name on the website, but he clearly knows his stuff. Enjoy.

A 'New Britain Chain Mortiser' in action, which dates from around 1915.
A ‘New Britain Chain Mortiser’ in action, which dates from around 1915.

Handmade parts, stamped for matching. It reminds me of number-matched parts on Norris planes.
Handmade parts, stamped for matching. It reminds me of number-matched parts on Norris planes.