Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Maritime woodworking tools.

The title may be a bit misleading, because it is not about tools used to build maritime stuff, rather than tools I have used the past year for hobby woodworking on a ship.

As some of you may remember, I made a tool chest for the sea last year. During the last year I have built a couple of projects using the tool kit, so I feel that I can give an honest review of it.

The projects I have built have all been limited in size to something that could be transported as luggage on an air plane. The following is a list of the projects I have made on board. Some of them I finished at home, because I don't like to leave a project on board when I go home.

Seaborne chest
Cabinet with many drawers
A carved name sign
Fairy tale princess bed
Tumblehome sea chest.
The recent carved sign for Aslan Fenix
A Gerstner inspired tool chest.

We are only signed on for 4 weeks at the time, and things really have to go smooth for me to be able to finish a project in that time. sometimes we are prevented by the weather or fatigue, so woodworking out here for me is something I do to relax and get my mind to slow down. The process out here really is more important than the result.

The tool set I bring with me is stored in a home made tool chest. Due to the fact that it needs to go in my suitcase on the air plane, this chest had to be light and not too big.
I made it out of 5/16" thick larch that was dovetailed together. The top and bottom are made from 6mm birch plywood.
The chest has been damaged by luggage handlers throwing my bag around, but it still holds up. I have re glued it a couple of places earlier, and I can see that it is time for me to do it again.
I guess that I should have glued in some triangular reinforcements in all corners.

These are the tools of the ship that I use for my woodworking:

Multi purpose wood saw (Fuchsschwanz), doubles as a straight edge for marking lines.
Try square.
Hack saw which I normally use as a dovetail saw.
Measuring tape or folding rule.

Once in a while I use a drilling machine, but that is not very often, but those are on board as well.

My own tool set can be seen on one of the pictures below, and consists of:

3 chisels, 1/4", 1/2" & 1"
A small dozuki saw
2 brushes for glue
A jar of white glue
Smoothing iron for the plane
Scrub iron for the plane
Grooving plane
Marking gauge
Sanding block
Home made router plane with an extra narrow iron.
Oil stone for polishing
Linoleum carving chisels (the newest addition to the chest)
Sandpaper grade 80 and 150 (as far as I remember)
Shooting board which is incorporated in the lid of the tool chest

I also bring a bit of hardware, all of it is in the small size:
Brass screws
Brass nails
Finishing nails.
Brass hinges (3 pairs)
An inset lock
Galvanized hinges (1 pair)
Turned drawer pulls (the dark stuff in a bag, they are very small)
A piece of a bone.
Some small pieces of cardboard to use for dovetail gauges.
A bit of emery cloth.

The only thing I have sometimes felt that I was missing is a jointer plane. But that has mostly been an issue if I had to glue up some sort of panels. Jointing two edges is not what a smoothing plane is designed to do.
Apart from that it is a pretty powerful tool kit when combined with the few items I need from the ship.
You can theoretically get by with only one clamp for work holding, but having more is advantageous in case you need to glue up something.

The tool I use the least is the 1" chisel, but I still like to use it for paring and if I make large dovetails.

The tool that makes the biggest difference is the scrub plane, or in my case the scrub iron for the smoothing plane. Being able to quickly process stock makes a huge difference.

Second on the list of tools that make a difference is the grooving plane. Because this enables you to make a wide variety of things: Tongue and groove boards, Grooves and dados, I even used it when I made a raised panel. The great thing with the grooving plane compared to a real plough plane is that at least the Stanley No 248 is so small that it will easily fit in a small tool set like this. I only have 1 iron for it (5/32"), but if I make multiple passes that doesn't pose a problem.

My conclusion is that the set is working pretty good for the type of projects that I do while on the water. But the tool chest itself should probably have been a bit sturdier made in the first place.

Damaged lid.

Lower chest cracked along the groove for the bottom.

Tools of the ship.

The line up of my own tools.

The shooting board.

Hardware assortment.

The tools neatly tucked in the chest.


  1. Impressive. Both the setup and the dedication to lug it back and forth. I have good deal of respect for your "can do" attitude. I never really thought about the air travel required for what you do.

    Hey, not to be nosey, are you currently off the coast of Africa? I know it's probably mundane for you, but for someone you hasn't been more than 10 miles from the house for over a year, it's fascinating.


    1. Hi Greg.

      I guess the "can do" attitude is necessary given the circumstances. But I must admit that I find it fun to see if I can mange to make stuff like a raised panel with the limited tools I have at my disposal.
      I bring my tool set back and forth with me each time I fly to or from the ship, so it gets a beating every 4 weeks.

      You are correct about our position. It isn't as glamorous as it sounds. But it sure beats the North Sea. the weather down here is almost the exact opposite of the North Sea where the weather is bad 9 months of the year.

      I really like being at home, but my wife and children would love to do more travelling. My problem is that I see enough travelling during a year, but we normally find a compromise.
      The horses also make it sort of difficult to do a lot of travelling, since they need to be tended every day.


    2. Jonas,

      My job used to have me away from home for weeks at a time. So I don't envy you your situation. I just find it interesting, if not flat out amazing, that a landlocked, untraveled hillbilly can read about, see photos and correspond with a man a half a world away that is bobbing around on the ocean. Plus it gives at little extra perspective to the effort that you go through. My hat off too you.



    3. Hi Greg.

      I think that one of the best parts of writing a blog is the contact with other like minded people from around the World.
      That is one of the advantaged of the Internet in my opinion.


  2. Hi Jonas,

    Do you think a small frame saw you can disassemble, with a variety of blades would work for you?


    Ernest DuBois

    1. Hi Ernest.
      That was actually a good idea.
      A blade for ripping would be nice to have, and a fine blade could also be used for sawing dovetails.
      I have a small frame saw at home, so I could try to see if it would fit.
      The only problem is that I am not used to sawing with a frame saw, so it might take a bit of practise.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Sorry,
    I am curious what the piece of bone is for?

    1. Hi Sylvain.
      The bone was going to be made into an escutcheon for the door of the"cabinet with many drawers".
      I brought that project with me home, and actually I finished it before going out to sea this time.
      I will post pictures of it when I get home.
      I had to keep it at secret since I had decided it should be used for a calendar gift for my wife.


  5. Which would be the one tool that you would choose to add to your shipboard kit if you could? For me it would be a Stanley combination plane, though they can get pricey even on Ebay. But it's a versatile tool. I bet you could get a lot accomplished with one.

    1. Hi Bill.
      That would have to be a jointer. Maybe "just" a No 6, but something a little bit more suited for jointing than my smoothing plane.
      If I could be unrealistic, then I would like to add a workbench. Maybe I should try to make a Milkman's bench and leave it so I have something for the next time.
      I guess it also depends on what types of projects you plan to make.
      Maybe I should just go back to making sea chests without any drawers, the problem is that I already know I can make those, so there isnot much of a challenge there :-)

  6. I'm glad to see that 248 getting used. It seems to be just the thing for your purposes. I thought it would be a handicap only having one blade, but if it is a useful blade, you are good to go.

    1. It is a fantastic tool :-)
      I have considered making a new blade for it, probably around 1/4". I think I can make it out of a an old file or maybe a piece of steel that I will harden. But the problem is that I am pretty good at coping with just the existing iron that I doubt I will ever pull myself together and do it.

  7. How has the chest-lid/shooting board worked out? I've been thinking of building a simple chest for bringing small projects with me, and I like the idea of building a shooting board into the lid. The voice of experience would helpful in deciding whether to actually do it or not.

    1. Hi Andy.
      The shooting board has actually worked brilliantly. Somehow I managed to make it a little out of square, so I have to slide a thin piece of cardboard behind whatever I am trying to "shoot".
      I should have corrected this fault using a shoulder plane while at home, but I have never taken the time to do so (probably good old fashioned laziness!).
      The lid and shooting board is stable because I used some 6 mm birch ply. When I need to use it, I put the lid on top of the tool chest and put a piece of wood between the chest and the wall. Kind of like a planing stop.
      If you make the chest itself a bit more sturdy than mine, it should help.

      To keep the weight low I made a row of sticks for the material to rest on. If the pieces that need to be processed are very short, it won't work though. To overcome that you could make the first strip a bit wider, say maybe 3". I only encountered the problem when I tied to square up the vertical dividers on "hanging cabinet with many drawers".

      Have fun with your project.

    2. Blogspot failed to notify me when you responded, so I've only just noticed. Thanks! My year is off to a rocky start, but I hope to start working on the chest next month, or maybe the month after. I won't need it until summer, so I won't need to rush.

      It's good to know the idea is viable: it's always a little hard to guess when I've only seen it in my head!

    3. Hi Andy
      Happy New Year.

      My chest has suffered more injuries during the last trips on airplanes, so I would really suggest that you make it a bit more sturdy than mine.
      Are you going to share the build on your blog?
      Brgds Jonas

    4. Thanks, and happy new year to you as well!

      Mine will mostly be used on car trips, so it will need to be sturdy, but not as much as it would need as a checked item on an airplane. If I needed that, I'd be considering welded steel!

      I hope to do a bunch of build logs this year... I've been letting my blog slip, since the end of last year got a little busier than I prefer. I have the results of a few builds to post sometime soon... I'll certainly update here if I do the toolbox!

      Thanks again,