Slow Days at the Shop. #2: Repairing my antique basswood drawing board.

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Blog entry by fatman51 posted 10-02-2015 07:48 AM 1038 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Cleaning, finishing the band saw stand, carpentry, and making pestles Part 2 of Slow Days at the Shop. series Part 3: Bench Planes! »

I cleaned up my shop after work today, intent on gluing the plane tote pattern I printed from the Lee Valley website to a scrap of wood to make a permanent pattern, thanks goes to terryR for Shop Log 20. . Unfortunately, my printed pattern was off scale, .9487 to 1. Rather than fiddle with he printer settings and hoping for the best, I figured out the scale and grabbed my old drawing board from the closet in my shop. This decision wrecked my plans to make knobs and totes because I found the old Hamilton board to be in a bit of disrepair and I decided to fix it instead.

This basswood drawing board is an antique, made by Hamilton Manufacturing Co in the first part of the twentieth century. I purchased it at a flea market when I was in college along with an old David White instrument.

The David White came in the wooden box shown along with a tripod head, but no legs. I made the tripod out of maple. it has brass and stainless fasteners. The bolsters at the base of each upper leg section are aluminum, and I shaped the foot spikes out of galvanized electrical conduit.

The red paint was not a mistake or a lapse of judgment. I wanted the the tripod to be easy to see and find when I set it up in the field. It is common practice.

There were several blank prints with the board, which provide a clue as to its age.

(it says: 1941, by McGraw Hill)

The board was still in good shape when I made this drawing. I wish I would have dated the document, I am sure I did date the final tracing, but the arena I drew the Judges stand for is now a parking lot, so I guess I have not looked at the board in a while.

After my trip down memory lane I carefully disassembled the board. Most of the glue joints were separated completely. One was about half gone and I helped it along. There was one solid glue joint left, and I left it alone.

Once everything was apart, I carefully scraped the antique glue from the old joints. I tried to avoid sanding for risk of rounding the edges, but I did have to sand 1 joint. I could still see the faint marks left from a rotary planer of some kind, but that is not a good clue of the board’s age because Hamilton was using such machinery by the 1920s. It seems like I read that in a Hamilton Manufacturing Co advertisement in an old Sweets engineering resource catalogue but I could not find it.

With the joints clean, I reassembled the board one piece at a time, using modern wood glue. I was careful to keep the pieces flat and lined up at the edges. I slid the dovetailed steel straight edge that runs up each side for the tee square on each board as I progressed. As I reassembled the board, I wiped the excess glue off with a weak solution of bleach water to destroy the mildew that had infected the surface of the wood. I gave each segment about twenty minutes to tack up before adding to the next.

When the glue was set, I swelled or filled, nicks, gaps, and dents and carefully sanded to 220 with the random orbit sander, finishing further with my sanding block.

I do not think the board ever had a finish, but I gave it a coat of Watco cutting board oil and it will get another coat to protect it from any further mildew.

Once I have washed the case I will spray it with Scotch Guard to keep it from letting moisture through and then I will be able to store the old board without worrying about it. I will try to add a better picture once I have applied the last coat. Though plain, it is a nice looking board.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

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335 posts in 1260 days

#1 posted 10-02-2015 09:21 PM

By the way, I have no Idea why Hamilton Mfg. made their drawing boards out of such soft woods as basswood and pine, but when I looked it up they seem to have been be quite proud of the fact. Maybe they were going for light weight. As it does not grow here, I have only ever used basswood for repairing guitars.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

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