To be transparent, I haven’t built a Windsor chair in my life (although I’ve had the pleasure of restoring a few and fabricating parts for them over the years). And yet, based on my informed experienced with the new spoon bits from Gramercy Tools, I believe that these new bits will be a hit among devotees of hand-tool chairmaking in particular, and green woodworking in general.
Back in December, at the end of the book party which Joel Moskowitz, owner of Tools for Working Wood, hosted for me, I snuck behind the scenes of his Brooklyn storefront to see the manufacturing apparatus which enables him and his crew to make tools right here in New York City. Anyone who has ever met or spoken with Joel knows about his love affair with tools, wood, and old books. He holds strong opinions on these matters and bold views on what woodworking is, and ought to be. Fortunately for us, he disseminates these convictions via the books that he authors, his articles, his blog, and his business. The fact that he is making tools in NYC – one of the least sustainable locations these days for manufacturing, and for operating a small business, is truly remarkable.
At the back part of his industrial building, Joel has all the equipment that he needs in order to make the high-end Gramercy Tool line: a plethora of machining equipment, a CNC mill, a few surface grinders, and recently a battery of heat treating gear. In the last few years, together with his senior designer Tim Corbett, he developed a way to make these centuries-old bits, but with a modern twist.
Spoon bits, as their name suggests, look like an elongated spoon and are meant to bore wood (mainly greenwood) with the help of a brace drill. Their history goes back many centuries and their simple shape has preceded both auger bits and the more modern twist bits. The newly launched bits from Gramercy are relatively lightweight, well balanced, and cut extremely well. I tried the bits on dry Ash, on partially dried cherry (14% moisture content) and on soft wood. From these trials, (you can watch the videos below) I can attest to their very high quality. The bits are machined perfectly, then hardened, and finely sharpened and honed.
Their geometry requires the user to commence the drilling carefully, as they don’t have a centering spur or a screw to help with plunging them into the wood. Yet, with some practice I was able to produce some very nice results. By following the beautifully illustrated and highly detailed instruction sheet, even the inexperienced brace drill user will be able to produce a clean and dependable outcome. There are a few diameters of bits in the Gramercy arsenal. I tried most of them. In my experience drilling was surprisingly easy, albeit drilling with the ¾” spoon bit (the widest that I have) in hard, dry Ash was not a cake walk. But then again, the spoon bits are predominantly intended for green or semi-green hard and soft woods.
Bellow are a few videos where you can watch me drilling in a beam of cherry wood using bits of different diameters.
Video #1: Drilling a single hole in cherry using the 1/2″ bit.
Video #2: Drilling a single hole in cherry using the 3/4″ bit.
Video #3: Drilling three holes in a row (in preparation for excavating a mortise) in cherry using the 3/4″ bit.
Video #4: Drilling three holes using a 9/16″ bit.
Video #5: How to begin a hole using a spoon bit. I turn to the right and the left until I get sufficient purchase on the wood.
Video #6: How to begin a hole using a spoon bit.
Next time I will demonstrate a very simple technique for sharpening and honing spoon bits that become dull.