bruce johnson

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Everything posted by bruce johnson

  1. bruce johnson

    American St Louis crank splitter

    First off, in the current market that is a good buy. Crank splitter prices have been crazy high with broken parts or not. That adjust handle broken off is the weak link on the American splitters. They always break if not removed for shipping or even in the shop if something hits them at just the wrong angle. No replacement parts available, they have to be made. As far as paint schemes - there are no rules. Mostly green but I've painted them green, brown, gray, burgundy, and have a solid black coming up in a week or so. Parts and diagrams - have not seen them for the American or Champions. It is a bit of an undertaking to take on totally down and refurbish but not like taking a watch apart and expecting it to run afterwards. There are a few tricks and "so that's how it goes together" things along thew way. I tell people it is a twenty chapter book or a 15 minute phone call to talk somebody through it. Be glad to help if you decide to go that way.
  2. bruce johnson

    Skiving stretchy leather

    One of the best guys I have seen skive used a home made blade on a turned over glass bowl. You know those honking big colored glass bowls that Grandma put potato salad in for the family reunion? His was the green color with white insides. He had cut the blade out an old saw. He was skiving boot top inlays at a cowboy trade show and fascinating to watch him work. A guy needed a mulehide horn wrap skived the length of the edges. This guy just held his blade flat so the bowl curve made the gap, stuck out two fingers out as a guide and as fast as he could pull it through, he was skiving the edges. I mean he was ripping it through there like it was on fire with an even skive just peeling off. It wasn't his first rodeo so to speak. I didn't ask if he would sell the bowl but I did ask him about a blade. Took $20 and a while later I got it in the mail. He put a handle on mine - duct tape.
  3. It always conflicts but if we weren't setting up on Thursday I'd be in Paul Zalesak's class on sharpening. A basic skill universal to all leatherworking.
  4. bruce johnson


    Midas version of the old Craftool Pro that usually has a black barrel. nice knives and that's a fair enough price
  5. bruce johnson

    Stamp Standing or Sitting and work surface hight

    I built my bench for both. The height was built for standing and I got an adjustable height stool then to make it right for sitting. I measured the height where my forearm was level with a maul resting on the end of a stamp. That is the height I made the bench. The stool was a an adjustable height draftsman type stool from the used office furniture outlet.
  6. bruce johnson

    Question about Striking / Tooling Sticks

    Yes, they were. The first striking stick given to me was a section of ax handle that had been drilled out and leaded, then rawhide wrapped. I used that one until I got the two fancier ones out of Art Vancore's shop i pictured earlier. I've had lighter ones that weren't leaded. Tandy sold one that had a hard plastic on the ends, that had a similar oval cross section. I have seen them made from balusters for handrails too.
  7. bruce johnson

    Question about Striking / Tooling Sticks

    This is how I hold a maul or striking stick. I still hold a hammer or mallet like a hammer but didn't use them much for stamping after I got serious. I had to hold my elbow too high to be comfortable. The only exception is when I was striking a big face stamp like a maker stamp. Then I would stand up and swing from the elbow like hammer. If I was using a big basket or geometric stamp I might add a little pepper on the stroke and use some forearm to add some force to the hit. I found that I could do so many hits and then set the elbow down for a 5 second rest, then go again on those bigger face stamps. I could keep that rhythm for a few hours easy enough. FWIW, Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was just right - 13 hits. That's how I counted. I switched to a maul pretty early on when I got serious and went through the MaulMaster and MaulMaster2 before I got my first Barry King maul. I moved up from there to different weights for different stamps and a heavier one for punches. I tried a few makers to find the ones that I liked best. Each maker has merits but straight vs tapered and then balance points, head material, and handle shape are different and all play a factor in the choice of which is better for a particular person. Sometimes you can pick one up at a show and tell if it will fit your style or not. Sometimes it takes a month or two at home.
  8. bruce johnson

    Question about Striking / Tooling Sticks

    JD62, Thank you for the nudge. I knew I had seen it somewhere and was looking through my old stuff and wasn't finding it in the Shelton or Stohlman things yet. Yes sir! Right there at the beginning of the Ken Griffin book.
  9. bruce johnson

    Question about Striking / Tooling Sticks

    Bikermutt pretty well described the motion I use and was taught by a couple guys who made a living stamping. They were elbow resting, wrist rocking fools. Basically the stamp driving tool of choice was a teeter totter and all you did was keep it rocking. The weight and fall of the driver did the rest. I never got as good as they did at keeping my elbow down, but i could go pretty long time spans. A few years ago some shoulder stuff was catching up with me and some of the tooling got to be a chore after a full day of work. The leatherwork side of my business was expanding but the tool side of things was growing faster. I had to make the decision and now mostly deal in tools based on my experience of using a lot of them. Just to show where I'm coming from I am attaching a picture of the stamping tool driving tools I have on hand and have used. Some I've used a lot more than others. Most of these are on my bench or recent acquisitions. I've got some in other sizes, some out on "try it first" deals and a couple "compare and send me back the one you don't want" trials. These are what I have right now handy. Some were early tools or ones like i used starting out 30 years ago as a hobby and doing my own repairs. Some were heavily used in my busiest times. One is as recent as probably made last month. back row Left to right - Striking stick -BTW, that is rawhide on both ends - 8 faces to wear before it needs to be recovered. If I was doing a lot of work, it would be right there handy/Rawhide maul/Unmarked maul and that's all I can say - nice poly type head head material/Don King maul/rawhide mallet/Bob Beard maul/Barry King tapered maul/CS Osborne split head hammer with rawhide inserts/three Wayne Jueschke tapered mauls and one laying in front. The two on the left have MILES on them. That's one reason I have them but there are others. The sticker price of $100 plus on each doesn't make them everyone's choice Foreground left - Clay Miller I just got a week ago/Harbor Freight hammer with fiberglass and rubber faces/Bear Man maul with the burl handle. There's probably a few I haven't tried but these represent most of the major players.
  10. bruce johnson

    Question about Striking / Tooling Sticks

    I have attached pictures of two of my favorites. The longer length is good for counterbalanced action. These came from a fairly historic local saddlemaker and one is seeing daily use in a friend's shop now. Until you have tried one, I'd say you've maybe missed out. These were very commonly used in the old "stamp all day" shops. By resting your elbow and holding it in the middle, the counterbalance effect requires very little effort. Just rock it back and forth and let the action and weight make it do the work. For small face stamps like bar grounders, small arc of rock. larger faces like wide bevelers - larger arc. Not more uumph behind it to swat it, just more range of motion. Once you get your muscle memory down for the effect of the stamp, you can literally fly with these.
  11. bruce johnson

    Rotary hole punch use & care

    It needs help, they all do no matter where you buy them from new. Take each tube out and clean the inside. A little WD40 with some steel wool wound on a nail works pretty well. Then sharpen each tube. Take some magnification to the edge and see where it has no cutting edge and and work your way around. Keep checking as you work through the grits to make sure you are keeping the edge and bevel even. Take the bur off the inside edge of the tube. I like the fine abrasive cord for this. Have not had much luck with rouge or compound on a piece of string. You can use crocus around a nail or whatever is handy. Replace the tube and make sure the punch end meets the anvil squarely all the way around. Now we will get into the part where things polarize. I punch into paraffin repeatedly until I have a stack of it clearing the tube. I like beeswax for a lot of things - like thread. It is a stickier wax and paraffin is a slipperier wax. Paraffin will lubricate you punch tubes more and help the punchings clear inside the tube better than beeswax. I am going to politely disagree with Chas. I punch right onto the anvil base. The copper or soft brass base is pretty forgiving and with a sharp punch tuned to meet the anvil squarely, it works. Over time the punch will imprint into the anvil and no biggie there. Some puse a piece of leather , some a piece of cutting mat, it is your choice, try both and see what is easier for you. You will notice most of of these old pros give a little twist as they punch - conciously or subconciously. That makes a bit of a slicing action that helps a lot and results in a smooth clean punch with minimal effort. Care of these punches - A little care goes a long way. If a punch starts to drag a bit, a light stropping helps a lot. A few old guys have shown me their "little secret tip". Take a piece of crocus and twist it around the end of the punch every so often, then the same inside on a nail. One guy took a saddle spike and made vertical "grit" grooves in it with sandpaper. He would lightly put it into the end of the punch and give a few twists to do the inside edge, A make shift butchers steel. Clean the tubes out when you are done using them by punching wax until the leathers clear. Corrosion inside the tube will make them drag or packup and make punching as hard as using a dull tube.
  12. bruce johnson

    mother lode noob

    Bubb, Where at in the Mother Lode? I am in Oakdale, there are a few of us scattered around the area. - Bruce
  13. bruce johnson

    Edge Beveler Sharpening

    I have tutorials on my website for sharpening both French edgers and edge bevelers. With some browsers just reading them on the site will will not display the illustrations. Feel free to download them. Here is the link to that page - Thanks, Bruce
  14. bruce johnson

    Rare Hackbarth Swivel Knife ~ Translucent Blade

    The clear blade In believe is the "sapphire" blade that Tandy sold for a while. An even shorter lived offering than the "ruby" blade so that may indicate something. The blade has some collector value to a Tandy or swivel knife collector. The swivel knife is a Hackbarth and could have made by either Ray Hackbarth up until the mid 1960s or later Ellis Barnes who acquired the rights to use the Hackbarth name. Ray Hackbarth was one of the first to make stainless steel stamps on any scale and have a few versions of swivel knives he sold. Nice knives with comfortable yokes.
  15. Here is my current but evolving mental algorithm when people call me about a splitter, my first question is going to be - What kind of leather? At least 4 times a week I get a call from somebody that wants to make wallets or clutch purses and split down upholstery leather or chrome tans to do it. Those leathers are too stretchy and soft and no fixed blade pull splitter will do it reliably. They need Something with body like vegtan, latigo, bridle, etc What width do you want to end up with? - Most people can split up to three inches reliably provided you aren't wanting to end up with a thin split of under 2 maybe 3 oz.. (You can sort of do that if you start with heavier leather and split upside down, but you have to level off the leather in one pass and then have enough left that the flesh side is meaty enough to take the pull. Not ideal). You can go from 16 to 14 on stirrup leathers, down to maybe 4 oz with decent widths. At some point the wider you go the narrower you can split because pulling on that thinner grain side will deform it. I have people with a Chase splitter that can do 6'' widths but it takes really good blade maintenance and some body strength or wide jaw clamps/pliers for a grip when you go wider. Leveling is easier than splitting. I have leveled 11" pieces though a 12" Chase on a fresh edge.If you wanted to do anything up to stirrup leathers, then I start talking about the pros and cons of the different pull through splitters. Crank splitters - There are limitations. These were built to level and split shoe soles. They like heavy material. Most will not feed leathers under 6-7 oz very well, especially into a slightly dull blade in any significant width. There are still good crank splitters around with all the parts and good blades. As far as parts and service, some parts are available, some aren't. Service - several of us have them and they are not all that hard to adjust once you understand the mechanics if all the parts are there and nothing broken. Currently I have never seen as many crank splitters on Ebay ever as there are right now. I have never seen asking and starting prices like now. Likewise I have never seen so many crank splitters on Ebay missing parts, vital parts broken, and the warning - "The handle turns but I know nothing about it. Look at the pictures carefully. sold as-is". I've got two Landis here spoken for that are priced for less than some of the broken Americans recently have traded hands for on Ebay. The other factor there is that you want to do 6 inch widths and these have 6" blades. They will do 5 to maybe 5-1/2 inches, but 6 inches is out. soooo...... Bigger than 6" and needs to feed. Two options besides industrial band knife splitters. - old school - wide Randall splitters are still out there. Somebody here probably has a great grandfather who cranked stuff through them and they are still rolling. The guys that have these like them and the guys that buy them know they are going to pay some bucks to own one. An 18'' Randall with a good blade will likely be about what a 14" Cobra is priced at. The tried and trues are not as much as 10 years ago, but the market is still up there. You want something new - that leaves one in my mind. - In a big circle, here is what I tell people that get this far. You always have options - "You can buy thinner leather or call Steve at Cobra". Not to sound like a smart ass, but that is where I'm at. I know several people with Cobras that like them.
  16. bruce johnson

    Randal and Osborne Splitters

    Looks great, Ross! You will like it!
  17. bruce johnson

    Randal and Osborne Splitters

    Ross, My oldest original catalog is and 1895 and the wood bottom (model #87) is in there. One of my friends told me that they seemed to have dropped out in about 1910 or so. I have several frames but mostly wore out blades. Not worth the price to get new blades made for them at present. When I do get a good one, they sell to Australia. These make a nice splitter and the Australians seem to have a penchant for them.
  18. bruce johnson

    Randal and Osborne Splitters

    Ross, I am not a metallurgist, but here it how it was explained to me. These and Chase pattern are among the oldest style splitters and according to a couple old guys that taught me, the steel was small batch hand mixed crucible steel. The carbon was not always evenly distributed and resulted in some areas that were a bit more prone to pitting. Also Rose knives can be the same way. Still the resulting steel is pretty hard good edge retention.
  19. bruce johnson

    Randal and Osborne Splitters

    Looks good. Shim between the blade and frame to raise the low side up. Sharpen with your fine abrasive of choice going through the grits to end with a clean mirror finish. Flat on the bottom, follow the bevel on top. Blades don't have to be around water to pit. Acids in leather can do it, hand carboned steel will pit some, Work it until you have a clean edge with not pitting on the edge or just behind it. Pits further up usually are worked out before they get to be an edge.
  20. bruce johnson

    Looking for anvil/steel plate

    I'm with Matt S above. First try i went in the front door of the office, talked to a manager. I just needed plates to stick over dies to use a shop press as an improvised clicker. He said he's have to run it by the engineer to see what specs I'd need. Yeah right, that'll happen. Under the guise of "just checking back" the next day, a dozen doughnuts to the receptionist got me pointed to the shop crew in the flat stock shed. Told them what i wanted. Javier figured 1" cold rolled stock would be plenty (he was not the engineer). He said he'd had some end cuts by 4:30 and to stop back. Twelve pack o' Bud Light = Javier and Armando loading the pieces cut to sizes I wanted plus a few more, sans invoice.
  21. bruce johnson

    Compounds For Stropping And Buffing

    I am currently testing a a few rust preventing products. You all have convinced me to go ahead and order a can. Around here I can only find the liquid in the bottle now, and as reported it is a diluted version of the paste. As I wrote above, I have not found the liquid to have the same rust preventative ability vs the paste. We are going into our damp season here and I might as add the paste into the test as well. Hit me up in April or May, and if things go right we can share some results.
  22. bruce johnson

    American LS440, splitting thin leather

    Then is it likely because you have the rollers as close together as they will go on this one. The teeth on the gears are long enough to allow for some expansion and still engage. Once they bottom out with each other, that is apt to be the limiting factor in your case. To clarify for for me, are you feeding 3/4 oz leather in and trying to split that further? I have not seen very many that will feed much less than maybe 6 or 7 oz leather very well. You can sure start thicker and take a lot off to shave down to almost paper thin grain splits, but can't start too thin and feed thinner leather to end up the same.
  23. bruce johnson

    Randal and Osborne Splitters

    They will go wider than your bell knife, they will both level skive/level split the ends of straps. The wood bottom can do an infinite tapered or lap skive.
  24. bruce johnson

    American LS440, splitting thin leather

    Post some pictures. The tension springs should be the same size. There are is an adjustment to close up the gap between the bottom roller and blade, and another adjustment to close up the gap between the top roller and blade. Then there is factor that the bottom bearing block is part of the gear cover so that gear cover needs to be able to float up and down. A lot of things could be at play here.
  25. bruce johnson

    Randal and Osborne Splitters

    I refurbish these quite a bit. Feel free to ask questions as you go. The wood bottom splitters are very simple and some people really like them. The Randall Chase is a great splitter, and one of my personal favorites as a user. They can be a little trickier to break down and clean, then rebuild and adjust but once you've got them figured out it is intuitive.