Grandpa's Little Farm in Tacoma, Washington

Grandpa's Little Farm

Reconditioned and Custom Hand Made
Woodworking Tools
in Tacoma, Washington


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What's New...

For some time I've been working on several new projects. Maybe its time you folks see what I've been doing!

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Drill Boxes...

One of my favorite has been drill boxes. Over the last several years I've purchased a number of vintage boxes and reverse engineered them. Dimensions have been pretty close to the originals. Most of the old boxes seem to be made of white oak, of which I do have a supply, but I decided to go with quarter sawn Douglas fir instead.

Hardware turned out to be a real problem! Some of the hinges were proprietary and never were available to the public. The brass hinges and latches that can be found are cost prohibitive. Also in many cases, the hardware was just too flimsy.....Remember, these companies were selling drills, not boxes. The solution came from the great folks at a local saw shop where I get my bits dipped. Bill, the owner grabbed the leather tab of his work apron and suggested I give it a try....

......So it was off to a local Tandy Leather store to pick some brains and learn basic leather working!!

Viewers will note the pictures shown here are of two box styles I'm working on in conjunction. The first style is a rendition of a CE Jennings triple tiered box. Overall, the design is relatively simple, but several technical challenges popped up along the way. The biggest problem was getting slots for each bit plowed into the pine shelves. This issue has been solved however and I will soon be making batches of these. Another issue was the clunky look to the screws in the leather "hardware". This problem has been solved by using a special leather adhesive. The screws will also be replaced with copper tacks that will be clinched on the inside of the boxes.

Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington! Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!
Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington! Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!

The second style of box was taken from several examples of Irwin boxes. Even though this is a much simpler box, it required a search for the clips that took almost six months! In the end, I settled on nylon clips that are shorter than the originals. Here again, it will be an effort to keep cost down. The original boxes features a metal plate that the clips would simply be pressed into. My version uses a wooden shelf which not only compensates for the shorter clip, but offers some "meat" for them to be screwed down into. The neat thing about this particular box is that it can be offered in several renditions with several selections of bits.

Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington! Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!

They are finally here! I've been working for some time working out the bugs on these drill boxes. We now have two styles to offer. Both have been styled and diminished from existing boxes that were taken apart and used as patterns. The first was taken from original Jennings three tiered box while the other was patterned from several Irwin boxes.

These boxes are made from straight grained Douglas fir with yellow pine inserts. Hinges on the "Jennings" style box are the 5mm hidden barrel type while the "Irwin" style box will employ flat brass hinges. Both of these boxes will use the standard brass clip pictured here.

The three tiered "Jennings" box is $40 while the "Irwin" box will go for $30. Please call or write to order your box. Check out our Drill Boxes tab to see them.

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Clients have been asking for some time for drill rolls. They are around. Both sets of double spiral "Jennings type" and single spiral "Irwin type" bits could be purchased in rolls. And actually, rolls make a lot of sense in a tool box, especially one that travels about. Not only are they less bulky, but they offer some protection to the drills they contain.

In later years, these rolls were often made of plastic. They hold up well, but frankly, just look ugly. The old cotton duck and canvas rolls looked nice, but wear out over the years. Of the five rolls I have now, only one could be considered serviceable. Remember, these rolls were owned by tradesmen. They were making a living with their tools and could be rough on them in the process. Craftsmen can take their time. Old tools are becoming rare and good new ones are expensive. A good cloth drill roll makes sense.

Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington! Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!

I've actually made one or two over the last few years, but I'm a wood worker, not a tailor. And trust me, the rolls I made showed this! Also, I just do not have the time or the equipment to learn how to produce rolls in any numbers. The plot thickens here however! A client in Virginia asked for dimensions on the old rolls I have laying around. His wife sews, but needs to know what he needs specifically. The wheels started turning! Why not offer plans for drill rolls anyone could download? They could then find a way to make their own rolls.

Initially my plan was to dimension each roll, then render mechanical drawings of them. But first I wanted to help that customer in Virginia. I came up with the idea of laying an old roll on my bench under blank paper. Now I could simply use a yard stick and Sharpie to put dimension lines around the roll.

Needless to say, the seamstress who takes one one of these projects is probably going to need an intermediate level of experience. Margins for hems, serge stitching and so on are going to have to be factored in. But I've done everything I can do to making it possible to create workable replicas of these old rolls.

So be courageous and pull out Mama's old Singer.....Or buy her roses and do the dishes for a week so she can have the time, and you might just end up with a decent way to store your bits!

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For some time I have been working on a project involving the Stanley No. 59 dowel jig. Its no secret that I love these things. Almost forty years ago I inherited on from my father-in-law. It was amazing how elegantly simple and incredibly accurate this jig was, despite the fact that this particular one has a cracked sliding frame. When I started looking around for a new frame, I learned that there are several variations. Not very much is written about the No. 59, so I decided to do some research.

The Stanley No. 59 dowel jig was pretty much built throughout the 20th Century. The jig works by holding a bushing perpendicular over a clamping surface on the underside of the sliding frame. This is done by securing the bushing into a clamping housing. The clamping housing can be slid across the surface of the stock to be drilled then secured to the sliding frame. The entire jig can be slid along the stock and locked into place. There is an index line that accurately shows you when to lock the jig into place.

Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!

There were a few design changes throughout the years, most of these were superficial. The most significant one appears to have occurred sometime around WWII. Prior to this, the bushing was caught by a hook then pulled back into a 'V' notch in the clamping housing. The newer design uses a screw that drives the bushing into a 'V' notch. Two drill stops were offered during the jig's existence. Remember that this jig came out before electric drills were available. The first stop was actually designed for use with auger bits. The second style could clamp on to any type of bit. They are not very common and tend to throw and electric drill off balance at high speeds.

Early on the jig was made from cast iron or mild steel. During the last decade or so this was changed to cast aluminum. The material doesn't seem to effect the quality of the jigs. The only two No. 59's I've ever seen broken was the original one I mentioned and one I abused trying to drill new bushing.

For the record, if you happen to be a Stanley collector, I've never seen these come in the old green carton. The earlier ones did come in "pumpkin boxes" with reinforced edges. This has nothing to do with 'users', but makes sense to collectors.

The Achilles heel to the system are the drill bushings. Simply they were loose bits that were easy to use. Also, the earlier hook design used a slightly different bushing. It has a notch across the bottom that lines up with a scale on the underside of the sliding frame. No. 59's are easy to find, and without a full set of bushing can be had for $20 or less, Whereas a complete system in good shape can run for as high as $80.

Stanley Tools has a website that offers bushing for $3.50 apiece. The problem is that they have been sold out for several years now. Its not likely they ever will be available. Bushing are also available through other sources. These run in the neighborhood of $15 each.

So the problems to offering Stanley No. 59's are twofold: 1. Come up with an inexpensive supply of replacement bushings. 2. Supply a method to avoid loosing those bushings.......I'm almost there!......

My original plan was to step drill stainless steel tubing. This meant coming up with equipment that could be dedicated solely to this product. Stainless steel has to be cut and ground with machinery not contaminated with other metals. In the end, this idea just didn't work out. I just could not get a consistent or accurate result.

The break came from a machinist friend. He suggested I look into outsourcing the bushings to a machine shop. They could easily be turned out on annealed drill stock. This seems like the most reasonable solution. Keep your fingers crossed! This seems to be the last hurdle to a problem I've been working on for some time.

I'm hoping to offer a couple of things once I get this last problem worked out. The first item(s) will be complete bushing sets and individual bushings. People are asking for them. I also hope to offer complete No. 59 systems. They will come in a box similar to the drill boxes I've been working on.

The pictures here are of a box I made for a customer in Texas. The bushings were scrounged up from what I have on hand. There is a drill stop for each bushing. These are commonly available.

Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington! Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!
Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington! Welcome to Grandpa's Little Farm located in Washington!

I'm not sure when I will be able to offer the sets. I've done everything I can do to put this together. Once the bushing issue is taken care of, I will be posting these for sale. My plan right now is to offer the later version. I'll let the customer choose between cast iron or aluminum.

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Last revised: September 17, 2016