January 9, 2018

21st Century Chisels and a Henry Eckert prototype…

I never really enjoyed the benefit of what a good sharp chisel could do until around 2005 when Thomas Lie-Nielsen released his A2 chisels. A revolution for me. They stayed sharp & were tough. Why were they so good, and so expensive? Because they were CNC’d individually from A2 tool steel solid round bar, hardened & cryogenically treated, that’s why. My guess is, that given the success Lie-Nielsen had with A2 steel in their hand planes, using the same material in chisels would be a natural progression. I remember a tool review on the LN A2 chisels by Robert Howard in Australian Wood Review at that time, he thought they were the best western chisels he had seen. Was this a new process for chisel manufacture? Until this time English, American & Japanese chisels were pressed in a forge to shape using ‘forgeable’ steel and then ground. Some were (are) great (particularly the Japanese chisels) and some were Ok and the rest were you know what. Forging high quality tool steel is often problematic and  sometimes impossible with some better end tool steel. Enter Australian toolmaker, Trent Powrie. As early as 2002 Trent experimented with machining (not forging) high grade tool steel to make chisels. He started selling his bespoke Harold & Saxon chisels around 6 months after the Lie-Nielsen A2 chisels became available. Trent feels A2 steel is not always tough enough for our Australian hardwoods and uses steels with higher impact resistance. Later came two more North American makers using this machining process, but that is about all there is today in this specialised field. Lie-Nielsen chose to replicate the old Stanley 750 ‘Sweetheart’ socket chisels. Excellent balance, simplistic style and very comfortable in the hand. To achieve the socket style they needed to be machined from round bar tool steel, not flat bar tool steel like others (that followed later). Much, much more steel needed to be removed to get to the final shape. Flat bar steel machining to make chisels is a walk in the park by comparison. Flat bar tool steel needs a tang and a ferrule made from a third material to attach a handle. For me, it looses the classic one piece simple clean style of the socket chisel. Some makers use similar looking steel as the blade for the ferrule to make it look like it is one piece, it isn’t. Those who own a socket chisel know that at times when they are picked up for use the handle falls out due to shrinkage of the wood taper, not really a problem, but sometimes frustrating for some. A sharp tap restores the grip of the handle in the tapered socket, some woodworkers use hairspray to keep their handles in place…       Pictures of a prototype chisel and the handle timber source are above. We expect them to be available soon. They are machined from PMA11V Powdered Metallurgy round bar tool steel. Socket style and ‘ferruleless’ they have a high tensile threaded steel rod in their centre to permanently attach the handle and to maintain sideways movement integrity. The handles are in select, straight grained, tough Spotted Gum. Formally first described in 1844, this wood’s Australian tool handle history is formidable, more on Corymbia Maculata later. Handle shape is influenced by  the old English Carver Pattern, a joy to hold, it is a shape that suits large and small hands. Henry Eckert Firmer/Mortise chisels available soon.

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December 15, 2017

New Shipping Rates

New Shipping Savings – Domestic & International When we shop on line, we normally find the shipping cost is a necessary evil we would all like to avoid. We have been working with our accountant, Australia Post & Startrack to establish much better rates and shipping times that we can pass onto you for both Australian & International shipping. Effective immediately, please see below: Domestic Shipping (Australia) Orders up to $100 ship with Startrack Overnight for $10. Orders over $100 ship free with Startrack Overnight. International Shipping Orders up to: USA-USD $120 ship 2- 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express for USD $12. Europe-Euro $100 ship 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express for Euro $14 New Zealand-NZD $120  ship 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express for NZD $10 UK-GBP £100 ship 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express for GBP £10 Canada-CAN $150 ship 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express for CAN $15 Orders over: USA-Orders over USD $120 ship free 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express. Europe-Orders over Euro $100 ship free 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express. NZ-Orders over NZD $120 ship free 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express. UK-Orders over GBP £100 ship free 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express. Canada-Orders over CAN $150 ship free 2 – 4 days delivery with Australia Post International Express.

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December 12, 2017

Henry Eckert Hand Scrapers – France

Henry Eckert hand scrapers are made for us in France. They come in both rectangular and curved shapes. The thicknesses are from .25mm, .40mm, .60mm & .80mm catering for any scraper requirement. Timbers that tear out are common in Australia. Occurring mainly in patches, the tear out can be removed with a sharp hand scraper. Hand scrapers are indispensable for smoothing flat wood surfaces, removing marks left by planing and routing, smoothing hollow and convex surfaces, cleaning glued joints and levelling uneven varnish coats. Sharpened properly and burnished with an appropriate tool, they are capable of removing the finest shavings and leaving a smooth and precise surface finish. By varying the pressure, angle and curvature of the scraper, you can achieve superb results even against the grain, knotty & cross-grained wood, inlays, tear out prone timber, etc. We also have a nice leather pouch to accommodate the scrapers. The Arno Burnisher is also a good partner for the scrapers. See the complete range here. Made in France.       

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December 11, 2017

Henry Eckert 7 pce Auger Gimlets

These auger gimlets sets are simply amazing quality for their price, they are on their own… Ideal for starting screws, these excellent auger gimlets have a tapered screw tip and an auger body. The seven sizes in the set are  2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 3.5mm, 4mm, 4.5mm, 5mm, which will handle the pre-drill for screw sizes #2 to #9. They are particularly useful for short screws or screws in awkward places, both of which present problems for power pre-drilling. They are very light to use and manoeuvre. The drill pulls itself into the wood due to the tapered screw tip and the deep auger guarantees good chip removal. In addition, their slightly tapered shape leads to greater tensile strength of screw joints. Faster, more accurate & more convenient than an electric drill. In tempered steel, ferro-blacked in the traditional manner, they are made for us by a small French manufacturer. Packaged in a small cardboard box. Every shop should have a set, perhaps a second set for a fellow woodworker… See them here. Made in France.

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November 30, 2017

Henry Eckert Chisel / Flush Plane

Our White Bronze Chisel/Flush Plane has been around us in various forms for around a year now. Our pattern maker is over it, too many changes! He uses Jelutong wood to do the initial shape, changes are easy if you are reducing the shape but not so easy to increase the shape. After we both signed off on the final shape we made a bronze prototype for our CNC machinist to machine. Problem… the frog like shape did not have any faces or edges where it could be secured repeatably square in the mill. More Jelutong in the bin, major changes finally got us there (although, at the time, I described the changes to our pattern maker as a couple minor mods). The Stanley No. 97 was the first chisel or cabinet makers edge plane used to clean up or trim inside work where space is limited. Regularly used to trim plugs or flush dowels/dovetails it is also a master at removing beads of dried glue after a panel glue up. The Henry Eckert Chisel/Flush Plane achieves all these requirements, it is an effective tool. Cast in our White Bronze it uses a plane blade to cut. It comes in two plane blade sizes, low angle adjustable mouth block plane blade or low angle jack plane blade. The base is CNC machined flat to fit either Henry Eckert PMA11V or Lie-Nielsen plane blades. It is a solid tool, lots of heft to get the job done, with a Henry Eckert blade fitted, it weighs .85 Kg, just under 2 lbs. It is precisely machined to fit the plane blade slots snugly. To ensure the fit is reliable we have used powerful rare earth magnets, one on the small blade plane and two on the larger blade plane. A plane can be purchased separately for you to use with your own plane blades or it can be purchased with Henry Eckert PMA11V blades fitted. Our test group have suggested they will buy the plane fitted with PMA11V blades to swap their Lie-Nielsen plane blades over so they can use the PMA11V blade in their low angle planes and their Lie-Nielsen blades in the Chisel/Flush plane. Both LN & HE blades work exceptionally well with the Henry Eckert PMA11V blades staying sharp longer and also with increased toughness. Made in Adelaide.

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November 17, 2017

Pouring Bronze, Powdered Metallurgy?? & Demo Tools…

Summer is alive and well in Adelaide, earlier this week 35° Celsius, and Joe & Peter are pouring a new bronze tool in their foundry without air conditioning, a certain dedication. Beer o’clock came early that day… More on the new tool soon. These guys have been pouring sand cast bronzes for many decades, there is not much they don’t know about their trade. They are getting very close to retirement age and there is no one knocking on their door asking to be taught the craft or if they can continue the business. Sound familiar? ___________________________________    Powdered Metallurgy (PM) tool steel blades – Are they any better or even worthwhile for us woodworkers? It depends, if sharpening is a necessary chore, or you do not like the interruption it causes or you live in Australia, then PM is for you. Why Australia? Many a woodworker would say that US timbers could be considered softwoods in Australia when compared to our hardwoods that blunt blade edges in a hurry. Ask plane-maker Terry Gordon about working Gidgee. Tool steels have 3 practical properties for us – toughness (does it chip easily), abrasive qualities (does it stay sharp longer) and does it sharpen easily. Our PM tool steel, PMA11V, excels in all these attributes, particularly high in (anti) abrasive qualities doubling the time between sharpening intervals. Those who wish to know more about the technical side of this steel (yawn), please see our information sheet here. Our understanding is that Lee Valley / Veritas were the first woodwork specialist tool company to use PM tool steel. I know of an Australian company that makes PM tool steel woodturning chisels, but so far that is about it. Some guys make knives from PM tool steel. Henry Eckert PMA11V plane blades are PM tool steel after market products for Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Block Planes, Adjustable Mouth Block Planes & Low Angle Jack Planes. They are thicker than Lie-Nielsen blades which decreases the chance of chatter and increases heft and also improves the centre of gravity of the plane. _____________________________________    The Tool Chest has been updated with some workshop & demo/show Lie-Nielsen tools and a very nice Ray Iles mortise chisel. We now have zipPay, buy now / pay later with no interest at all. Maximum purchase is a semi-responsible $1000. David Eckert Adelaide

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November 9, 2017

Gray Hawk – Practising Perfection

While I was researching materials for the new Henry Eckert Marking Gauge system a while back, I dropped in to see Gray Hawk for some advice on wood suitability and availability. I met Gray quite a few years ago after a Hand Tool Event we had in Adelaide. Gray came to the event and invited Chris Vesper (Vesper Tools), Christian Timbs (Japanese Tools Aust) and me to visit his studio after the event concluded that day. What an experience, his furniture was simply breathtaking. The choice of timbers, design, complex angled joinery and use of non-wood trim was something I had never seen before. And, he was on my doorstep… an inspiration for my own woodwork. Gray, (Gray Hawk Design) has been fulfilling major commissions and bespoke furniture orders for 40 years. Federal Courtrooms, Australian Embassy Mexico, St Francis Liturgical Furniture and many, many individuals have all benefited from his work. His chair & table combinations are amazing, he told me he averages a month to complete a smallish two seater table. His new studio in the southern suburbs of Adelaide is a woodworkers haven. Spacious, well lit, wonderful machinery, benches, tools, sanding booth, spray booth, showroom and a life long collection of timber – it has absolutely everything. Gray sublets space in his studio to a couple of quality (and lucky) woodworkers. An inspiring environment. (BTW, Gray is looking for one more suitable artisan to join him.) Keeping up with Gray as he explains different timbers in his massive stash is hard work, well, for me anyway. So much information on history, milling, figure, sawing, radials, trunks, branches, colour, performance from years of experience is challenging. I feel like asking him to slow down so I can soak it all in but this guy is a doer, he is on the job and I sense he dislikes distractions from his current project. Gray replied to this question in a recent ‘Junkies’ magazine – “Are you concerned that age-old crafts are being lost in the 21st century?” Gray said – ‘I think there are many here among us who value and enjoy practising the traditional artisans’ crafts, both professionally and as hobbyists. For instance, I spent time with a team of blacksmiths and coach builders and learnt the skills of a wheelwright. While preserving the knowledge and art form, this experience now informs my current design and construction methodology.’      So it was with some trepidation that I took Gray our new HE Marking Gauge for his personal use. He looked at it, paused, grinned, held it, grinned again, and then asked where I got the box it came in made! I think it passed the test. David Eckert Adelaide

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October 31, 2017

Eclipse Evolution – Our Honing Guide of Choice

For 12 years we provided a Taiwanese copy of the old UK Eclipse honing guide. I used these guides in the workshop and for demos, they  lasted a few months of regular use before the bearing corroded, locked up and died. They sort of held plane blades Ok but the lower chisel clamp just didn’t grip the tool, always skewing, hard to hold straight. But, for $20, no one complained. Nine years ago, in Thomas Lie-Nielsen’s office, (the inner sanctum, tool heaven), I noticed a small compact tool looking something like an Eclipse guide. Thomas revealed it was a prototype for his new honing guide! Five years, six years, seven years went by, still no guide from Thomas. Understandable though, given the magnificent range of complicated quality tools he makes, got no idea how he does it, genius…(BTW, I am no longer the Australian importer for Lie-Nielsen, new importer here.) About that time the guy that sells second hand tools at the Sydney Timber & WWW Show sold me a genuine Eclipse honing guide, in great condition. It worked so well, simple, effective, flexible…it reignited our interest in the tool. Could it be replicated? An extended research process finally revealed the Taiwan manufacturer that made the guide copy.  Negotiations enabled me to import the guide in component pieces, unassembled. One of our CNC guys, (another Tom), wrote an intricate CNC mill machining program that machined the two guide halves as pairs. There were five operations, the top clamps, the bottom clamps, the ‘belly’ of the flats, the front to allow clearance for higher honing angles and the sides had a clean up. We also machined a stainless steel roller bearing and an aluminium knurled knob. The modifications ensured the blades being sharpened were square to the roller and hence the sharpening stone, and straight, and held securely. The blades also sat flat on the guide because the clamps no longer produced a hump when they were tightened. Hence the Henry Eckert Honing Guide was born. Thomas Lie-Nielsen has now released his honing guide, a side clamping guide like the Eclipse. It is a stainless steel beauty, with the ability to change clamps to accept all the different Lie-Nielsen blades, very nice. We thought the first Henry Eckert Honing Guide was a good performer, it certainly did the job and has many woodworkers using it  today. I have always had a dream to manufacture here in Adelaide, design the tool, control the manufacture and hopefully improve the tool performance. Casting bronze is a journey, well it was for me. Lots to learn, lots of errors, lots of money…  But, when the tool is finally finished, polished, shining, working, it was all worth it, I think… So we made the Henry Eckert Honing Guide Mk II from the ground up. Gunmetal bronze, stainless steel, solid brass, sintered bronze. We think, all the right metals, no short cuts or compromises. We made the two sets of jaws deeper to accommodate the thickest blade around and then some. A third, finer set of jaws, takes thin chisels now. Heavier, solid and tough. We hope you agree. We also added another Angle Setting Jig to suit the new tool, it makes setting the angles very quick and repeatable. We are not going to accommodate skew blades but we are working on a way to hold short spokeshave type blades or short Japanese chisels. So that is our Eclipse Evolution, a smart and enduring design from a long time ago, now with design modifications, contemporary manufacture and metallurgy. David Eckert Adelaide  

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