Musings, replies and a birthday.

First up, general replies.

It would seem that bashing in some general tomfoolery here has restored my health somewhat. Dunno why, but it has. Woohoo!

Andy, yep I am better. :)

This was a SS gift, but not for my SS recipient. Someone else contacted me about a square, and I suggested I could make a knife. I made a couple similar to this a few years ago and tried it again and it worked. My own SS guy will get another set like this along with a few other tools that are distinctly Japanese. Wouldn’t be any fun getting some decidedly un-Japanese tools from the only guy in Japan now would it?

I hope I get to see what you make Andy, sounds like it is going to be interesting to say the least. I know it’s not me, my SS sender told me mine is on it’s way and I have a suspicion that Todd (SS organiser for this year) meddled a little in it. If I end up with what I suspect, I am going to have a lot of explaining to do to the locals I can tell you that…

The blade is not ‘brass’ per se, but what’s known as Muntz metal. It is basically 60:40 copper/zinc brass but also has a trace of iron. It was originally devised to replace the pure copper cladding on ships as it was cheaper, but just as resilient as pure copper. It must be worked hot as it work hardens very quickly and to a very high level. The stuff I used was about 3/4 temper, which makes it about the same strength as mild steel. It tarnishes very quickly, but stays there indefintely and in the shop never forms any vertigris (nasty green corrosion) that typical brasses sometimes do.

Great stuff, but a nightmare to work with because it is so darn tough and hard. Not a good idea for a folded back saw, but a laminated spine would be great.

Bob, I figured that just a square for a guy just starting out (where these ones are going) is a good thing, but backing it up with a good marking knife is icing on the cake.

The whole square/knife combination will be much more integrated in future models. So much so that they can’t be separated. Also thinking of a dovetail marker that comes with a DT specific knife made of thin HSS.

I’ll spill the beans now, why not? Need to adjust the square? Screw the knife’s cap off and there’s the tool to do it.

Nifty huh?

Tom is cute isn’t he, the little monster. I know he will need a nice baseball bat made by dear old dad soon enough, just so he can beat off all the girls. For the time being, the girls can stick around. ;)

He is a boy of which there is no doubt, but he is so nice that I begin to wonder sometimes. Sickly sweet little fella on occasion and usually very considerate and well behaved.

Just so long as you are not between him and strawberries, tomatoes or fish. Then it’s like standing in front of an express train. ;)

(BTW, I sent you an email, I hope it got through.)

Mike, aka the cause of my broken hibernation… :)

The squares are something I made earlier in the year. I think there were about 24 of them to start, I lost 4 before they got metalled up, a few more after the metal was added and a couple more in the final stages. I know I got 3 of them, and I sold 4. One I sent into ‘Woodcentral’s tool making contest’ for an honorable mention (like missed a prize by ‘that much’) and asked Ellis Walentine (Host of Woodcentral) to either keep it himself as a thank you or to pass it on to one of the sponsors of the contest.

It went onto a sponsor, some Rob fella who lives in Canada who was very happy to have it. Haven’t heard about it again, so I hope no news is good news.

Another one went to Bob up there when I sent off a bunch of other tools to him. Another went to someone else who helped me out a bunch when I was devising them and bouncing ideas about.

I don’t even know how many I have left now, but the numbers are dropping and in a few weeks they will be positively endangered around here.

This is both good and bad.

Good because they are good tools designed to be used and used hard all day, every day. One of my small ones has seen nearly daily service since I made it, and it hasn’t let me down. It’s ugly now with scratches and dents and whatever, but it won’t take much to pretty up again and it’s still as accurate as it was when it was made.

Bad, because these squares have a few design flaws I did not realise existed until I actually used them for a while. It will be nice to get them out of here, but I worry that they are not ‘as good as they can be’.

So, the next ones (if there is any interest in a new, improved design) will be an evolution of this design.

There is an adjusting mechanism inside the body of the square. Just a couple screws, a couple pushrods and a single pivot pin holding the blade. Adjust the screws, you adjust the blade. Because I used 4mm Allen socket screws, and not everywhere uses metric, I included a small adjustment tool with a 2mm Allen key. The small adjuster avoids over torquing and it’s nicer than a basic key.

The sides plates are epoxied and screwed on to precisely milled wood bodies, then milled and lapped flat and paralell. The blade is also milled then lapped straight and paralell.

I guess that’s about it. They are squares, and there isn’t much to them.

If I am able to make the next generation there will be some changes.

*Matching knife with integral adjuster.

*Inside facing will run all the way up, but still include an ‘engineers corner’ between the inside face and blade.

*Choice of brass/Muntz metal, Stainless steel or 1095 blue temper blade with stainless facings. More work, more trouble but some folks want something more durable than brass.

*More sizes. This batch had 3″ and 4″ worth of blade. The next ones will have 4″, 6″ and probably 9″ with larger sizes as an option. I think 9″ is stretching the durability of this basic body style, considering that I apply a 50lb load to the blade tip 3 times in both directions to pre-seat the adjusters and make sure there are no flaws I missed. Adding a bigger blade, this body won’t cut it with a healthy safety margin sooo…

*A much more heavy duty body. I have not made one of these yet, but I hope to soon. If I can work out the kinks and offer them for sale, they will be very, very expensive, very trick looking (a single visible piece of hardware in a very odd spot) and effectively indestructible, but very easily torn apart for maintenance. But I can’t afford to make one just for me, so I’d need some willing folks to prod and poke there. They would be done with either stainless steel (possibly hardened) or aluminium bronze throughout.

But that’s all in the possible future. I love making tools, but I need to put food on the table first. If making tools can do that, great! If not, then I don’t make tools. :(

Anyway, you asked, I told. :)

Tomorrow, no tools. I have to change my strategy for finishing I think.

On Friday, I sprayed a couple of big doors and had some spray gun trouble. Nothing serious, but annoying. I got it sorted out and got a finish on there that looked like glass. Really slick and super smooth and 2 months ago I would have been giggling like a schoolgirl with glee.

But right now, it’s cold, really cold and Friday was also wet.

So the finish didn’t ‘set’ very quickly, and because the doors were standing up, the finish ran a little. Not happy, not happy at all…

So tomorrow I’ll try the more complicated but more forgiving horizontal mode of spray finishing.

The birthday?


This is Koko, and she is 1 year old today and she is my biggest fan.

She is happy because her most favourite person stayed up until 11pm the night before, risking digits around machines with teeth to make her birthday present which she thinks is the greatest device she has ever seen in her life.

In short, dad (that’s me) made her a push cart and she loves it. Obvious I guess.

We wanted to give her one of these, as she needs something to hold onto until her co-ordination is good enough to walk well under her own power. She isn’t there yet, but she is close. I hope this will give her a little push now, and it’s something she can use in the future as well.

What you see is what you get here. Beech all round with Hinoki as the floor and some Ramin dowel for handles and axles. There is also a little friction brake on the back axle so it doesn’t get away from her, and it works perfectly.

Heck, both Tom and Koko like it.


Yes, Koko can push Tom about, but only in a straight line. Tom can also push Koko about, but only if mum and dad want heart failure.

(Tom likes to run, I blame his mother.)

So that’s it.

Good night, and happy birthday my little girl.


2 comments to Musings, replies and a birthday.

  • Andy

    Thanks for the details about the squares – I’m sure your SS and other gift recipients will be very happy, and your future versions sound very interesting! I’ll email pics of my gift… I just mailed it off today, but I’m pretty excited to share it with someone. ;)

    Also, very nice pushcart – looks perfect! And both your children are beautiful! Looks like they’re having a lot of fun. About 26 years ago, I was the one pushing the cart with my little sister inside! :)

    Thanks again, and look for an email soon,

  • [...] Pushcart Posted in December 9th, 2008 by BobStrawn in Uncategorized Check out the pushcart my buddy Schtoo made for his daughter’s [...]