Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Screw Driver can be a Very Enjoyable Tool

Like most people I have a occasion to buy new tools for the shop and when I obtain a tool with which I am particularly impressed I like to share my joy of owning this tool or in this case a set of tools. When I have a need to fulfill I usually like to purchase tools from another independent tool maker such as myself. Bear in mind that when I write about other’s tools in this blog these are tools that I have sought out and purchased. I am not encouraged to promote other's tools and only do so of my own free will and most importantly if I think the tool is particularly worthy.

I pursue making fine tools on a daily basis and I know most of the people in the hand tool woodworking world that also produce products of a similar nature and quality so I’m not easily impressed. I now own a set of screw drivers with which I am very impressed.

I use screw drivers an awful lot. While sizing the height of the lever cap pivot pins for one of my planes I remove and install these slotted pivot pins several times and in the process of tuning the lever cap to the back of the plane iron I may remove and install the lever cap pivot pins several more times during this process, not to mention the many other occasions during the day that require the use of a screwdriver.

During the years that I made furniture I often wished for a good set of wooden handled screw drivers. I searched for this elusive tool and the best I could find was a set that I purchased from Garrett Wade. They had square wooden handles with a sprayed lacquer finish and even though they were better than the plastic variety they still left something to be desired. They were advertised as being made in Germany. They were not exactly the Mercedes of screwdrivers.

I continued to search and once I entered into making tools I often encouraged other tool makers that made small tools with turned handles to develop and offer a good set of screw drivers. Most of them looked at me like I had two heads and typically walked off mumbling something about how I had gone completely round the bend.

Thankfully waiting round the bend was Gary Benson, Dave Lindeman and Chuck Pyne of Elkhead Tools. They obviously also thought the world needed a better set of screw drivers because they have produced a set of tools that exceeded my wildest dream of what a set of screw drivers should be.

Cheap, poorly designed screw drivers are hard on your hands and most of them don’t fit the slots of common screw sizes well at all. When they slip they mark your work and this just creates more work for a plane maker. The Elkhead Tools drivers are an absolute pleasure and quite frankly every time I hold one in my hand I marvel at how they nestle in my palm and the feel of the cocobolo handles is just so enjoyable that I believe I unconsciously smile every time I pick one up.

I’ve waited a long time for a good set of screw drivers and these guys have obviously put a lot of effort into developing these tools. These tools consist of hand turned cocobolo handles, German tool steel shank and tip with brass ferrules integral of the handle insert that gives these screw drivers such a solid and well put together appearance and feel. The tips fit the slots of common size screws quite well and don’t ding and deform the edges of the screw head slots.

If you’re getting the idea that I like these tools you’d be correct. Let me say this however. These screw drivers are most likely a bit pricier, well actually a lot pricier than any set of screw drivers you’ve ever purchased but don’t worry you’ll be getting your money’s worth and you’ll know it every time you pick one up.

If you would like to learn more about these screw drivers and the other offerings by Elkhead Tools you can visit them online at

Once you've acquired this set of screw drivers you're going to need another set. Go right out to your local big box store and buy a complete set, maybe even two complete sets, of the yellow and black handle screw drivers. They'll probably be less than $10.00 for the whole set and then you'll be ready. Why you may ask. When your neighbor or brother in law comes calling wanting to borrow a screw driver you'll be ready. They most probably need it to open a can of paint and there is a better than even chance they will never return it. It will be well worth the ten or so dollars to keep harmony in the neighborhood and peace in the family.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Plane Makers Dream, Billet of Macassar Ebony

I participated in the Altanta Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event February 18th and 19th at Peach State Lumber in Kennesaw, Georgia. This was a great opportunity to reconnect with some good friends from that area and see the good people from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, my friend Deneb included. Steve Qhuel, owner of the local Woodcraft Franchise invited me to display and demo my planes on a beautiful ash Roubo bench made for him by my good friend Jameel Abraham. I just could not pass up that opportunity.

Some weeks prior to this event I received a phone call from a gentleman named John Fiant. John runs a custom woodworking/millwork business in the Marietta area of Atlanta. We conversed about several aspects of tools, tool making and many woodworking related topics. As the conversation ended we agreed that the Lie-Nielsen Event would be a great place to meet in person and continue our discussion.

John introduced himself to me at the event and as our conversation continued he inquired as to whether I would be interest in a piece of Macassar Ebony that he had in his possession. As he began to describe the piece to me I had to work at controlling my excitement. I certainly did not want to give away my bargaining position by seeming overly interested. The truth of the matter was just this....if the wood was as he described, I by all means wanted it and I told him so. So much for my bargaining position.

This billet measures 5" thick 6.5" wide and is 52" long. The moisture content measured 6.2% on all four sides. Truly a magnificent piece of very dense, will sink in water, piece of wood.

As you can see in the pictures some sides contained wonderful tight contrasting stripes and other sides contained contrasting marbling. John delivered this billet to my shop the following Thursday. When he place this piece on my workbench there was only one word to describe my condition......I was GOBSMACKED!! Seriously this was the word that popped into my mind.

A piece of wood of this nature doesn't come along everyday and I really was interested to know more about it's origins. I consulted with a friend that handles rare woods in the Atlanta area and he stated that he knew of some billets of Macassar Ebony of this description that had originated from a dealer on the west coast and was fairly sure this was some of that same material. This would put this piece of ebony as having been drying for 15 to 20 years.

By the time John departed for home I was the new owner of this wonderful piece of wood and of course my wallet was much lighter as a result. I was also in more trouble as well. When I consulted with the dealer in Atlanta he informed me that he had stumbled onto another log segment of the now famed "Picasso Rosewood". As luck would have it my wife Julie was flying to New York the next day to attend my Grandson's 1st birthday party. After I dropped her off at the airport I stopped by my local wood pusher, I mean dealer's place of business and entered into negotiations for the rosewood log. I returned home with the log segment rolling around in the trunk of my car like a bound and gagged kidnap victim.

It's been an expensive week to be a plane maker in this part of the world, but I'm thrilled to have this material.

While conversing with one of my customers on the phone the next day I mentioned this piece of wonderfully striped and marbled Macassar Ebony. He asked to me to send a picture. Negotiations of a different type ensued and when all was said and done it was agreed that I would be making a matched set of planes using the Macassar Ebony material.

A matched set of planes will be a new adventure for me and it goes right along with the adventure and the opportunity of acquiring exceptional wood. This piece of Ebony is so pristine in it's present form that it almost seems a shame to cut it up into pieces.........but I will!

Did I mention before that........ "I Live for this Stuff!"

Yeah, I guess I did. (Grin)