Questions, Answers, Suggestions

Here I invite you to use the post feature below to ask general questions not pertaining to any of the articles currently posted and also to make suggestions for the blog, the project or for the name of my next child.

I implore you to request topics for upcoming newsletters / articles as well as what you would be most interested to see us provide classes on.

The floor is open - you have the mike,

Jean Becnel
L'ébénisterie Créole

© Jean Becnel, 2012. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 
Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)


  1. It's quite simple, really. You type and click publish!

    Jean Becnel


  2. Join Date: Aug 2013
    Posts: 1

    Hello Jean,
    You pointed me to this site and wrote you could help me I hope you can. I have received some good info from some tool experts but not quite the info I am looking for.

    Default Question for hand cranked grinder experts. . .
    I have some questions for folks who have knowledge of antique hand cranked grinders and other woodworking tools from the early 20th century. I'm writing a children's' book that will highlight the main important steps in wooden boat building. It's not written like a boat building instructional manual, but rather will pick and choose the steps that children will find most interesting.

    For example, I am having the character's father start out by showing him how to polish and sharpen the tools. I've done quite a bit of research on hand cranked grinders of this time period and think it might make sense for a father to start teaching his son how to begin using one by replacing the grinding wheel with a soft muslin wheel and using that to clean/polish the metal parts of his hand tools. I thought this would be a good way to show my character Joseph getting the feel of the grinder without hurting himself or damaging any of his fathers tools.

    So my first question is: hypothetically, if either a woodworker's hand tools had become a bit dirty/rusty and/or if he wanted to show his son how to use a hand grinder in a non dangerous (to the tools and him) way, would it work to replace the grinding wheel on the crank with a muslin wheel, soak the muslin with coal oil, and clean the tools by spinning the crank and running all of the metal parts of the tool across the wheel?

    Valarie Farnham

  3. Hello Valarie,

    The answer to your 'technical question' is yes, that would work and yes if could be done as a means of familiarizing someone with the grinder. Leather wheels were also in use as a means of cleaning / buffing when abrasive and oil were added depending on what would be readily available to the region - coal dust / charcoal and oil for example.

    That said, while that would clean a tool, a setup like that would only serve to dull the cutting edge of a tool so it may not be the best way to introduce sharpening.

    The technology of sharpening in a workshop setting has changed very little in the last century. The grinder would only be good for rough sharpening and would need to be followed up with a finer stone and finally a leather strop. Tools properly cared for would likely not be taken to a grinder very often if at all as very little work is required to maintain the edge of such tools and would be done with a bench stone and strop.

    Keep in mind - not every craftsman had a hand cranked grinder either and many would have relied solely on bench stones and a strop.

    Also treadle powered grinders were more favored by those in the woodworking field as it allowed for more control over the work - two hands available to hold the item being ground) and allowed for the use of a water trough to keep the stone wet. One thing certainly worth mentioning with those is that the wheel would be traveling upwards - the reverse of modern grinders.

    Grinders in general would be more of a Black Smith's tool or for the woodworker would frequently made his own various tools.

    In regards to teaching a young pupil to sharpen, a bench stone is easier to master as it allows for two hands to control the piece being sharpened. There are various methods of sharpening depending on the tool and I would be happy to discuss this further and in detail if you wish.

    You originally mentioned that you had other questions: Feel free to initiate an email exchange through the Contact form at right of this page.

    Jean Becnel

  4. Hi again,

    I can't thank you enough Jean for all the info. I am in the middle of doing a great deal of research on sharpening and honing various tools. I'm also viewing many online videos. I'm inhaling as much information as I can on boat building and the tools used in the process and there is so much to inhale. But I love extensive research and interviewing people as much as I love the creative process of writing. I do have more questions for you if that o.k. In the credits section of the book those that helped me the most will be thanked for their contribution. You are very knowledgeable and I feel quite lucky to have run into you online.
    Thanks again for all your help. (I had to split my post in two because of the character limit).
    Valarie Farnham

  5. Hello Jean
    I just found you site and I love what you are doing. I am doing research on Galveztown and was wondering if you could point me to any diagrams or floor plans of types of house the settlers built in 1778?