I was doing a shop cleanup today and ran into some old friends that I thought some of you might like to meet. These are shop made tools that I used when I was building wooden boats and date back to the early seventies when I was working at North Arm Boat Works and Sather Boat Works, both on the North arm of the Fraser river in New Westminster, B.C.
First a nod to the man who started me off on my life as a shipwright and introduced me to these tools. His name was Frank Honour and he owned North Arm Boat Works. Although he never finished high school he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met or will ever meet. I wanted to learn and he needed help. The combination put me into an intensive training that the apprenticeship program could not touch. He taught me as much as I could learn as fast as I could learn it. Frank died many years ago but I will never forget him and will always give him most of the credit for my woodworking abilities, such as they are.
Now for the bevels. I know that most people would call them bevel gauges but around the yards where I started out they were simply “bevels” so that’s what I’ll be calling them. I have one of the commercially available sliding models with the wing nut but I’ve never been able to find a use for it that one of these didn’t do better, hence it has seen little use and certainly doesn’t have the patina that these do. “Patina” here means a combination of linseed oil, cuprinol, sweat, oxidation and years.
The first two are what were known as the big bevel and the little bevel. Everyone had their own and you never used anyone else’s hand tools. These were accurate but quickly made and plain to a fault. I guess I’d describe them as “friction bevels” because they were made to flip open with a rap on a solid surface but were stiff enough to stay where they were set long enough to transfer the bevel to a timber, board, pattern or saw setup. They could be used with one hand while the other one was occupied. The big one would be used, for example, for measuring and marking the compound angle to be cut on the end of a deck beam. or other large-ish timber.
The small one, along with the last one in this blog lived in my pockets every day. The only other things that I always had on me were my tape measure on my belt, a pencil behind my ear, and a bunch of 1 1/2” nails in my back pocket. This little guy would be in my shirt pocket and the other one in my other (left) back pocket. It was used in much the same way as the big one but was used far more often because it was always right there and it was so versatile. I can’t begin to list the places where this little tool was used and in most of them nothing else would work as well if at all. A fine old friend indeed. It’s made with a hacksaw blade and a piece of scrap bending oak.
While I’ve seen lots of bevels like those above in other yards and in others’ hands, Frank is the only one that I ever saw with one of these. It’s a special purpose planking bevel and he had me make mine soon after he started to teach me to plank. Again it can be used one handed and it is made to be used left handed because of its specific and only job. When a plank is being made for a carvel style hull, the angle between the edge of the adjacent, already fastened plank and the ribs to which it will be fastened must be measured every foot or so as it is a changing bevel and must be reproduced on the new plank in order to fit properly.
This little bevel is marked off in degrees (0 to 15) both “under” and “standing” so that when it is set on the edge of the fastened plank and rotated with the fingers against the rib it reads off the number of degrees above or below 90 and that number can be written on the pattern or spiling stick or whatever you are marking on with the other hand. That’s why it reads properly only when used with the left hand.
Roman numerals are easier to etch into copper with an awl than our usual numbers. (Arabic?) It is fastened at the pivot point by a copper nail and a rove, riveted over. If it gets too loose a couple of light taps with a ball peen hammer will tighten it right back up.
Looks like my table saw fence is pretty square.
That’s it, just a little nostalgia for me and perhaps a look into something different for you.
This was fun, maybe I’ll post a few more when they turn up.
Thanks for looking in.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglas boats he would have given us fibrerglas trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/