Tools of the Trade

Share secrets, compare techniques, discuss the merits of materials--eg. veg vs. chrome--and above all, seek knowledge.
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romango
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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1376 Post by romango » Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:47 pm

Thomd,

I suggest you contact Georgene at http://www.shoedo.com/ She has several styles of lasts cheap!

marcell

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1377 Post by marcell » Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:01 am

ThomD,

Buy as much as you can instead of making yourself - maybe that is bigger fun, but:

- not a shoemaker's job (for example: last maker and tool maker are different professions)
- almost sure that you won't have good result.

Believe me: you will have many more chance to spoil your work, you don't need to have more. Image But as you wish.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1378 Post by dearbone » Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:17 am

ThomD,

We are a small, mature group of learners,from our oldest to the youngest,so small in fact that if we were birds or other animals,they would have put us in the Endangered list, but the reason for what i said above is that a new learner will have his/her hands full just trying to learn the vast amount of knowledge about pattern making and bottoming without adding the extra burden of learning to make lasts, which is also a complicated field,one pair of last will take me few days to make, will i spent $40' or $50'to buy it? yes,we say what we think,but you are indeed free to choose.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1379 Post by large_shoemaker_at_large » Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:25 am

ThomD
Welcome from a fellow canuck. Your luckey to live near a lot of resources.
As other poster mentioned making lasts is a subset of the whole shoe field, Buy them and study them and then you can understand the making of a last is not ordinary woodwork, I also do a lot of furniture making and not to many straight lines, but lasts are a multiple curves, subtle angles and a repersentative of the foot but not exactly like it.
some tools can be made but most are better bought.
ask the forum as needed. the only stupid question is the one not asked!! we all started with one first pair and don't worry the first 100 are the hardest LOL.
If you can find a copy of "The last shall be first" by John Lobb is a great read and sort of gives you a perspective of the Gentle craft.

thomd

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1380 Post by thomd » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:20 pm

Thanks Brendan, where abouts are you?

Just got back from a little run in the truck. Took in National Shoe supply, no joy there. They seem to be gatekeepers, very 80s set-up. They don't deal with the hoy paloy. The kind of place where one imagines they come to work in suits etc... and change into those double knits in the locker room, put on the pocket protector, adjust the comb over, and start sprouting 80s retail jargon.

NS is the kind of reason why I prefer to make things. In the same time I could have ground out an awl on the KO Lee and heat treated it. Maybe several. In fact, oddly, the last time I visited Tandy they were inside, in the dark, with the door locked, and the closed sign up during business hours. Still it's a Tamil taxation zone, so you never know what you are walking into.

The only problem with making stuff in the shop is it's so boring in comparison to going out and meeting people. The guy at NS wouldn't show me their catalog even. Fair enough straight from the gatekeeper's playbook. Still I couldn't resist asking them how I would know if I wanted to come back with letterhead, tax numbers etc... if they wouldn't show me what they sold. At least it is entertaining.

I was also downtown, and I may have seen Nasser crossing Queen Street, coffee in hand. I can only guess from the expectant look of customers queued up in front of his place. Snug looking shop, cool neighbourhood.

thomd

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1381 Post by thomd » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:31 pm

From the archives:

"I have a stupid awl question. I have one similar to the one DW shows that I've been using as a closing awl (i.e. a smaller size blade). It was dropped and hit just wrong so the setting point of an awl blade snapped off deep inside the wood. I'm not really happy about the idea of taking a drill to dig it out, and just jamming another blade in there doesn't seem to hold very well. Any thoughts or suggestions?"

So the awl is just a friction fit in the wooden haft? Is it burned in? What about a small hole bored through the haft (patent applied for) so that the broken bit could be dislodged with a small rod? Sorta like that hole they have in bathroom doors so that you can retrieve the toddler when he locks himself in. I don't think a neat hole would look bad, but those of a more artistic bent could install one of those birthstone gems the woodturning places sell, or a finial.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1382 Post by das » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:52 pm

Now here's a question.....

As I mentioned the other week, much to DW's envy, I just got a load of awl blades in from Seigenthaler in Switzerland--some of the nicest tiny curved closing blades I've seen in a while. In sorting through them I discovered several sizes inter-mixed, 1 7/8" to 2 1/8". But, being a basic museum-weenie I also noticed tiny makers' marks on them, so I thought I'd run them by you all to see if any of you know their dates of operation, or whether they are still in production. If they are active firms, maybe we could get their awls direct, rather than through the middle-men finders?

Rasche
Baegel
Hanks
King (anyone know where in Germany they are?)
Leo Lammertz

The Hanks look "antique", but the rest appear to be current or at least recent production. Besides the closing awls I got a load of 4" curved (gently) heel (sewing) awl--those were all marked Rasche.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1383 Post by dw » Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:27 pm

Al,

The only tidbit of info I can offer here is that the Rasche brand is the brand most commonly associated with the German "sickle" style of inseaming awl. I have a few of these but although I do use them I don't use them enough to go looking for a reliable or contemporary source.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1384 Post by das » Fri Jan 23, 2009 4:31 am

DW,

Which only tells me Rasche is fairly recent if not still in operation. Turns out Leo Lammertz is/was a sewing (machine?) needle company, called "nadle fabrik". Some of the 1 7/8" curved awls in this lot are King brand as well, so they do make teeny-tiny ones as well as the usual 2 1/2" to 3 1/2" sewing awls the finders here keep in stock. Does King brand awls have a website?

For the historical shoemakers doing repro work of older stuff, the tiny curved awls for round-closing uppers, whipping, etc., are an absolute necessity. And as difficult as Seigenthaler is to work with (from the USA anyway), maybe Marcel or another Euro Forumite might find out how to get at these awl-makers directly?

The big need at the moment is for 2" super slim straight round-section "stabbing" awls. The smallest Woodenware Repitions offered came in nice and short, but the diameter of ice picks *sigh*.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1385 Post by dearbone » Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:44 am

Thom,

I am sorry to hear,you had a bad day at NS twenty years ago their sales man used to go shop to shop taking orders and deliver,but here is how to go about opening an account with them,call them and ask to open an account, than you can walk in the warehouse behind those clerks desks and shop,all they need is your tax exemption number,most of their business is done ordering over the phone,they are mainly findings and have some leather collection, for leather "Moore-Pearsall leathers Limited" 416 789 3123 I try to keep a civil relation with the suppliers,because they are the only ones in town and it wasn't always easy for me dealing with them too,but trust will be gained with time.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1386 Post by dw » Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:47 am

Al,

Yeah, I used to buy a lot of needles from Lammertz. I had no idea that they made awls...I'm not sure that they still do or did in recent times.

Just as a precaution, mind you, and to have a fall back position, Dick Anderson has been making a few sewing awls. I don't know if he would want to attempt anything that small...what? 1-3/4" to 2" ??...but the one I got from him seemed pretty good to me. And it was one of his first attempts and this was several years ago now. So...maybe.

Beyond that, I would be interested in a few awls for round closing. I have some from old stock I got when Barnsley closed and a few more from a certain Dr. O who was generous with his cache. But I have also made functional facsimiles from larger awls simply by grinding them down...slowly, slowly.

Not a good solution but in a pinch, needs must.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1387 Post by large_shoemaker_at_large » Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:50 am

ThomD
I'm near Fort Qu'Appelle SK about an hour from Regina. Try calling Warkov Saffeir in Winnipeg they will probably send you a catalogue
Sorry the guys at national shoe were less than friendly.
Moore Pearsall in TO. if you ask nice will probably let you root around there leathers.
Glad to hear that you can make and temper tools, that some thing I never did fiqure out how to temper metals.
Tandy is a waste of time not much applicable to footwear and prices!!!
Sunnybrook Hospital used to have a large Protheic/orthotic/shoemaking shop you could ask for a tour and chat to the shoe dudes.
Last suggestion Phil Watson at Dundas ON. may help you out, he has been making shoes for years and may help in getting some tools and materials.
I hope the gatekeepers will que up in front of the pearly gates and spend some quality time with the others, explaining policy until the fires of hell creep up on them.

chuck_deats

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1388 Post by chuck_deats » Fri Jan 23, 2009 8:37 am

Al, FWIW, My current small stabbing awl is a large saddlers needle stuck in an engraving tool handle. Point it on a stone. Seems to work.

thomd

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1389 Post by thomd » Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:22 pm

Thanks all.

Hardening and tempering tools is about as difficult as boiling water. Sure it can get complicated with certain alloys, and there are always lots of tricks. For an awl a simple but quality metal is O1 drill rod or plate. You can just chuck the rod into a drill and spin it against a belt sander to bring it down to the taper you want. Next step is to heat it till it gets bright red hot. For small pieces a propane torch is fine. Dusk outdoors is about the right background light. Use a magnet to touch the steel with. The steel will go non-magnetic just below the transformation temp. I carry the heat a little higher because O1 likes 50 degrees above de-magnetic. I simply watch for any visible colour change, the first degree of visible additional change in colour seems fine. At that point I quickly dunk it into a pot of bacon fat, or used to when I had it, or olive oil. It should be hard enough to skate a file.

The next step is to temper the piece to the desired hardness. I temper almost all my tools to straw yellow. This involves either heating the butt till the tip appears straw yellow in colour (you need to polish the tip up a little). Or I just put it in the oven at 400 for an hour when something is being baked. Basically, the process is repeatable if it doesn't go well. Straw yellow puts an emphasis on edge holding if one is after a tougher tool with less edge hold one just lets the next colour of oxide run into the tip. Or crank the stove an extra 50 degrees.

Speaking of colour. In the case of hardening with the magnet to test, the colour is the glow of steel heated to 1500 degrees, red hot. In tempering it is a palate of oxide colours that go from light lemon yellow to a blue black as the steel is heated from 350 degrees and up. The steel isn't glowing it is more like the look of gun bluing or anodized aluminum.

One has to be realistic, it is easy to get home made tools to the highest level through heat treating. On the other hand, we all have favorite tools gleaned from ebay or antique markets that sharpen a little better or hold an edge better than some others we use. Same thing with starting out making tools - they will usually please you, they are easy to do over if one has to, but they may not be initially perfect, but shouldn't be any worse than the range of available stuff out there. The staring point is getting the tool file hard in initial heat treating. A file should not be able to sharpen the hardened steel, it will scuff off the oxide, but it should skate over the tool unable to cut the quenched end. If the tool is file hard, the tempering is probably going to result in a decent tool. Don't waste time tempering a poorly hardened tool. Once you have a properly heat treated O1 tool you can still ruin if by over zealous sharpening. If your sharpening make the new tool go blue, you have simply tempered it too much and may need to redo the HT.

There are a range of safety issues any time one enters a shop but here are a few specific one to this kind of work:

- You need to know how to grind small pieces. It is like patting a porcupine with the fur, do not present the tool to the grinder, if a newbie, in such a way that if it caught it would present greater length to the grinding belt or wheel. The reason the porcupine will hurt you if you pat the fur backwards is that if you move your hand towards it's head with the same elevation from it's spine, the quill will catch on your hand and rise up becoming relatively longer in comparison to your hand position. This is called a "catch" in woodturning or grinding circles.

- When using the magnet be aware that it can grab the piece out of your pliers etc... This can lead to dropping it where it might cause a fire, possibly on it's way through your foot, or it might expose you to the flame. Just practice with the magnet first while everything is cool. Of course, when the steel is demagnetized the magnet doesn't grab. At first you may not know when to test so you tend to get stuck. You don't have to use a magnet, but it makes the process relatively foolproof.

When you quench the tool in lard or oil, the quench tends to catch on fire. As a general rule you don't want to heat the whole tool, just a substantial part of the end you will use. But sometimes the whole tool needs the extra strength. Oil catches on fire because the oil vaporizes and there is an ignition source above the surface. If you get all the hot metal under the surface it probably won't flare. Under the right circumstances a little fire is no big deal, done wrong it is a big deal. Use a metal container, you don't want the metal burning a hole through plastic releasing flaming oil all over the place. Have a lid to smother the oil. Don't use more or less oil that you need. Monitor accumulating heat in the oil if doing several tools, etc... It is actually possible to use water to quench O1 tool steel but that is an advanced technique.

Particularly after the tool is hardened, it will be glass rod fragile. It can be dangerous to use, since a snap might cause it to break off with energy. Do not use untempered tools, unless that is the intention (files). Use tools within their range of energetic use. Don't use a cutting tool as though it had a spring temper.

That's a lot of stuff, but it's just: heat it; quench it; bake it. 5 minute job. Couldn't be easier. Record your results.

Actually thinking of how a lot awls I have used for woodworking behave... Many are not tempered at all.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1390 Post by dw » Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:47 pm

Thom,
So the awl is just a friction fit in the wooden haft?


Sorry to be so tardy in replying to your question (for that matter I may have missed someone else's question months or years ago...but better late than never, maybe)

I any case, the awl shank is indeed just friction fit. Al Saguto showed me this trick years ago...

First, when I make an awl haft like that I drill a very small pilot hole in the ferrule end (I think Dick does as well) then I clamp the awl in a vise between two pennies, with the shank sticking out of the vise. I fit the point of the shank into the pilot hole in the ferrule end and, with a leather-faced hammer, I drive the haft onto the shank of the awl.

Now the trick to getting a broken awl shank out of a haft is never to drop the awl or pry on it or handle it in any way that risks occurring that situation. I don't know of any other viable solution.

If you can get the shank out, however, then it is easy enough to fill the old hole with wood glue and hardwood pegs and then start over. On the other hand, if the wood of the haft is hard enough even filling the hole may not be necessary.

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thomd

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1391 Post by thomd » Fri Jan 23, 2009 4:06 pm

Thanks a lot DW. Do you have one haft per awl. There was a picture of a roll of awls without hafts that led me to believe they might share a haft.

Above I said:

"Actually thinking of how a lot awls I have used for woodworking behave... Many are not tempered at all."

I should have said they did not appear to be heat treated at all.

A fun technique for tools that do not require high edge holding like hammers anvils, and awls, is using super quench. This stuff hardens mild steel which had previously been believed to be impossible. It was invented at Sandia labs. It is a mixture of water, salt, Dawn and Jet dry. Nice thing about it is no tempering. Just heat and quench. Also it isn't flamable. Shouldn't be used with steel with more than 45 points of carbon.

Nasser-

Where Moore-Pearsall leathers Limited on front street at some time? I know I used to deal with them, but I may also be mixing in another place.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1392 Post by dw » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:17 pm

Thom,

One awl per haft...many in waiting. Image

BTW...thanks for a great tutorial on hardening and tempering steel. It seems easy enough but it's always intimidated me. Maybe I'll give it a go...

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1393 Post by romango » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:54 pm

Thom,

Very interesting post on hardening and tempering. I really appreciate it. I am going to try this on channel scrapper I've made.

thomd

Re: Tools of the Trade

#1394 Post by thomd » Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:38 am

I think heat treating is intimidating on a valuable project like a knife you really ground nicely, and are worried about messing up. A piece like an awl, a leaf spring for you sewing machine, a fitted screw driver, is not really all that high stakes.

One of the first pieces I did was a replacement rotary blade for a tubing cutter. I had a plumbing cutter I used to cut steel golf club shafts. It was designed for copper, and the wheel was not hard. I made it on my woodworking lathe with a grinder to do the shaping, I used the head of a bolt.

The first time you successfully get something heat treated, a small project like that litterally faster than boiling a cup of tea. It is magic, like making gold from lead would be if it were possible. I'm not trying to get all holy about it, but if you think of all the miraculous stuff that goes into making steel hardenable... Just think if it had the conductivity of Al, it would be hard to get the end hot enough and very nasty to hold onto. It's hard to imagine our world without this miraculous property... Go right out to the shop and give it a try.

I came across a thread on testing edges for sharpness. I have been a woodworker for decades, and you can tell one by the patches of missing hair on his arms. I finally found a respectible method of testing for razor sharpness. It is the method used by barbers. You lick your weak hand thumb or fingernail. Hold the object in your strong hand and bring it at an angle to the nail, test if it catches on the nail. This is done at about 45 degrees. If it catches it is razor sharp, but barely so. This means it is ready for fine honing. You have a good edge but not yet polished. Carry on with the sharpening, when ready repeat the wetting and catching process with a finger tip. If it catches on your finger it is really sharp. Ready to shave a face. In fact there are all sorts of levels of sharpness, but these two test levels are pretty helpful. In neither case is anything cut, or if so at a micro level. This method leaves no apparent nick on nail of finger tip. That is what is so good about it, a barbour tests edges all day, he can't be taking tufts off his arm or nicks out of his nails, he would soon have little left to test on.

Do be careful particularly with heavy objects that are razor sharp. Do not hold such objects above the hand while testing. Consider a razor sharp object as you would a gun, mortal wounds are possible.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1395 Post by jask » Sat Jan 24, 2009 3:23 am

I have been enjoying this thread, I am truly impressed at the diverse backgrounds and skills that the members bring to this forum.
Thom, great write up on tempering.I was taught a similar approach by a watchmaker- his advice was to never heat an unknown piece of steel above dull cherry as it could "burn" or alter the metal irreparably.This might be more an issue for people who are tempering a commercial awl that has been re pointed.

Moore Pearsall was on Front street, and I will never forget riding the freight elevator between floors in search of various leathers I needed as a young Orthotics technician;thousands of matched rolls, stacked hides and all the exotics in the main measuring room. I can not imagine the new location has the same atmosphere but I hope they still have all those old leathers,they could match almost anything.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1396 Post by das » Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:21 am

Chuck,

Great idea! We use friction-fit awl hafts only, however, so we'd need to figure out how to create a slip-proof tang on these, but thanks!

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1397 Post by das » Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:31 am

ThomD & DW,

And the trick to knocking the haft onto the blade held in a vice is clamp a copper penny each side of the blade so the vise jaw teeth do not bite in or otherwise scar the polish of the steel. After hafting, be sure to polish the awl blade well with 500 grit wet/dry, the slicker they are the better they go.

As to favorite hafts w/ broken shanks in them, in extreme cases you can remove the metal ferrule, saw off the offending wooden tip with the old shank in it, drill down into the body of the haft and insert a wooden dowel (w. glue. epoxy, etc.), taper it to re-fit the ferrule and there you have a brand new haft tip. Just drill the pilot hole and off you are sewing again.

For "historical" work, say pre 1850s in front of the public, you'll want friction-fit hafts only, but for general use the "screwed" hafts work fine if you can live with the added bulk at the ferrule the screwed chuck creates.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1398 Post by das » Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:48 am

Awl blade-making 101--(Having never had much success myself with this, I present it for it's historical value only):

1) make a small hardwood block to clamp in your bench vise, and saw or file a shallow straight kerf that runs the length of it, just deep enough so that your steel wire will stand proud of the surface and spin in place to and fro in the kerf as in a half-bushing
2) lay your length of straight steel rod/wire (softened first) in the kerf, and with a good sharp file (allowing the steel to rotate in the kerf keeping it round--if you want it round) file it to the desired taper. Form a 4-sided pointed tang with a hammer
3) bend the rough blade to the curvature you desire, make the point, etc.
4) for heat-treating, make a tiny "coal shovel" shaped sheet-brass tray with a handle on one end so the blades will lay in it and not hang over the end--heat the blades through the bottom of this "shovel" with a propane torch, shaking and rolling them around constantly to get an even heat/color. On such a small object as a blade, putting it directly into the flame of a torch will burn the thin bits before it ever heats the thicker ones
5) after you get the desired color, immediately up-end the "shovel" pouring the blades right into your quench kept right there handy (oil, etc.)

IMO what you want is a good spring temper so the blades will flex without snapping but not loose their curve. This is the part I never was able to master myself. I made dandy looking awl blades, but they were always too brittle or too soft *sigh*.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1399 Post by das » Sat Jan 24, 2009 5:18 am

PS--the above technique--tapering/filing jig and the tempering tray idea--came from my late dad, a master jeweler and for years the White House's/First Family's horologist, so venerable sources all.

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Re: Tools of the Trade

#1400 Post by dw » Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:05 am

I don't care about the "historicity" so much. I do care about the shape.

I started out with the Barnsley premium screw hafts. Because I have always pushed with the palm rather than holding the haft like a bludgeon, the bulbous end eventually damaged a nerve ganglion in the palm of my hand. Like a Morton's Neuroma but in the hand.

When I acquired the first of my old style "mushroom-ended" friction fit hafts I thought "Oh, what a lot of bother!" But using them, I realized they were not only meant to be pushed with the palm of the hand but were short enough to allow my index finger, middle finger and thumb to naturally close on the ferrule itself...which gave me a very fine control.

Eventually, I started turning hafts from various hardwoods. At one point in time I busted a German sickle awl off in a precious piece of tulipwood (a beautiful form of rosewood). I did as Al suggested...I sawed off the ferrule to save the ferrule itself, and sadly tossed what was left of the haft into a box of scraps. A couple of years later I salvaged the screw mechanism from an old screw fit awl haft and melded the two. I still don't know how I managed to pull that off with the remnant I had but it worked. So I may have the only screw fit 17c. style awl haft in existence. But it's a dandy. I love it.

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