Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Travisher Refined

My love affair with the travisher began many years ago when I made my first one. Watching the shavings fly while the tool rides along the curves of a seat is pure pleasure. I've made many others since, but have always suspected that there was room for improvement. So recently, I set out to make a better travisher with the goal that it would be easier to use, more precise and more durable.
Here is the result.

The shavings that you see are from the endgrain of a pine board. I've added a brass sole plate to the tool after noting how quickly the sole, even out of rosewood wears. The rest of the tool is made from walnut.

I shaped and mated the brass to the blade, which I bent and heat treated to hold an edge appropriate to the use of the tool. Andy Jack and I have worked out the process to a point where the results are consistent and can hold a great edge.

Here is throat.

The radius of this travisher is a bit tighter than I used to make, about 3 1/2" and the blade is consistently set proud of the sole plate around the radius.

For a travisher to work properly, the sole must be slightly angled upward and curved so that the contact point allows the user to vary the depth of cut. It's very rewarding to put these details into the brass plate, knowing that they will last.

Andy and I are going to produce these, in limited numbers, for $200. I'm proud of the tool and as usual, it's all just a ploy to spend more time hanging out with Andy. Please email me ( if you are interested in purchasing one and we will let you know the lead time.

You may have noticed my absence from posting for a while, and a few of you might have guessed, it's Maple Syrup season! Well, this year, I promised myself to go all out as a celebration of our new home and a hard and busy year. So, with the help of my brother Andrew, my pal Dan and the generosity of Ray Duffy, I built a new evaporator from a 275 gallon oil tank and bought some lovely pans to get a boil rate of about 12 gallons an hour. That means a gallon of syrup takes less than 4 hours to make, versus about 10 hours on my old rig!

Here is the tank, with a door from a barrel stove kit.

And here it is boiling away!

The pans are set up like a snaking trough where in fresh sap is introduced on one end which pushes the condensed sap through to the end where it is near finished syrup. It was a ball to watch and you can see how we drew the syrup off of the finishing pan up front. We tinkered with the rig a good bit, and on the last boil of the season, we got the whole surface boiling beautifully.

Here is the product.

You can see the different grades. The one jar is upside down to sterilize the lid. This is the best syrup I've made, with a distinct maple flavor and no sugary bite. I can't wait for next year.

But now, I'm off to Kelly Mehler's to teach with Greg Pennington for a couple of weeks, always a great time.