Monday, July 23, 2012

The Travisher Part 2

There is plenty about the travisher that is counter intuitive. In this video, I show some of the techniques that I've found helpful in getting the most from my travisher.

I am starting to look forward to fall, especially now that I have a new slate floor and woodstove in the shop.

It was strange not having wood heat in the shop last winter, but now I'm all set, except for the firewood of course.


djy said...


I don't know if you have already mentioned it, so perhaps it would be informative for your readers to know that the travisher is originally a tool that evolved with Windsor chair making in Great Britain, specifically for shaping seats. More often than not, the seats on English Windsors are Elm, a considerably harder wood to shape than Pine, for example. In that sense, the travisher is mostly used as a roughing out tool across the grain. Then it was generally followed by a stock scraper with the grain.

Certainly as you point out, across or with the grain, whatever works to accomplish the intended task, is the more complete use of the tool. I thought that it is worth emphasizing that across the grain, is definitely the way the tool was originally mainly intended to be used, and at least for Windsor seats, not a finish tool. Your more delicately made travisher, seems to help extend it's usefulness for both rougher and finish planing. It looks like a very useful tool that you are producing there.


Howard in Wales said...

I concur with Denis about the direction of cut – but it depends on what wood you are attacking.

‘Windsor’ chairs and their derivatives were definitely ‘below-stairs’ furniture. Her ladyship wouldn’t be seen dead in one. The association with the town of Windsor is debatable, but they were mass produced in the tens of thousands, in the 19th and early 20th century in the High Wycombe area, about 20 miles away, using beech for the legs and stretchers, because Beech is extremely plentiful in the Chilterns and South Bucks area and in those days, Elm was an industrial timber.

The seat material in the UK was traditionally Elm, generally in older chairs made in one piece, so that demanded a board width in excess of 20”.
Seats were seldom if ever made of pine, because pines yielding boards of a single width suitable for the chair seat are not native in this country; Oak was and continues to be used in Wales where Elms were not plentiful.
As well as chair seats, Elm was traditionally used for coffins and in the Middle Ages, whole trunks were hollowed out and used and water pipes.

By its nature, English Elm is a resilient wood, resistant to rot, infestation and because of the interlocking grain patterns, difficult to split.

English pattern seats tend to differ in their finished shape from American ones. We do not, as a general rule, finish the front edges to a sharp curved point, preferring a blunt, bull-nosed profile. My own (home-made) travisher (I only have one) is a beefy thing capable of taking a slice out of the seat either along the grain, set for a heavy cut, or with the grain taking a lighter cut to avoid tear. I expect it to behave well (in Elm, that is) in all cut directions. I expect that the technique would differ slightly for other timbers.

I tend to use it as a second cut roughing tool along with a battery of other implements, because I would first have outlined the basic shape and depth of the saddle round the edges and front centre with a deep out-cannel gouge, followed by roughing out to depth with a small compass plane that is curved in both directions – sometimes called a ‘round-both-ways’ plane – rather like a tiny scrub plane. I finish with a selection of scrapers.

That’s my way. Unorthodox perhaps, but it works for me.

Of more concern is that Elm trees are almost extinct in the UK, following Dutch Elm blight in the 1970s/80s. What trees remain are protected by cordons sanitaire, so Elm planks of seat quality is scarce and we are finding chairs turned out with joined boards.

All best from Wales.

djy said...

I have used my travishers on chair seats made from a diversity of hardwoods, Maple, Walnut, Cherry, Ash, Laurel, Purple Heart....there must be a few others. Included was some rather rogue grained highly figured material. Some variation in performance from the tool with the different woods, and subsequent tear out resulting, but I can't recall where the travisher didn't at least allow me to get the depth I wanted for the roughing out, or at least close to it. Perhaps Peter's travisher would do an even better job on rogue grained woods, if the throat is fairly tight. Without a chip breaker, it would seem that some tear out is unavoidable, and that is where across the grain will be better effective. I never really measured it, but it seems that taking a deep cut across the grain, as opposed to with it, will easier allow a thicker shaving, so increased speed becomes a factor when planing that way as well. One little addendum about travisher sharpening, is that the burr was left on the iron after the final sharpening. Though it tends to get knocked off fairly soon, the bloke that first showed me the ways of the tool advised that, and other chair makers with a lineage to the past, informed that it was their method as well. Beyond doing it that way myself for the last thirty-five years, I never really enquired as to what was the thinking about the burr.

Howard, sad to read that the English Elm has become hard to get. I built chairs in and around High Wycombe for a couple years, and given the timeline that you mention, it was in the midst of the blight. At that time, Elm logs that provided wide planks could be easily had at the timber merchants. It's a great wood for chair seats, very well suited to the English Windsors for both aesthetics and the technical aspects of making them. A decent wood to adze. The fact that seats could be legged up with the ends of the legs penetrating close to the outer perimeter of the seat (a difference between English and American Windsors), then the wedges banged in without the wood splitting out, is attributable to the grain knitting itself together, as is mentioned. The dank smell of the wood is also something that I will never forget, only enhanced by the addition of the lovely fragrance of hide glue. It tends to want to better wake you up upon entering the shop in the morning.

Best regards,

Unknown said...

Nice insight from across the pond fellas. Thanks.

I have a version of Pete's travisher that Elia makes from a few years ago. I don't know about the history of the tool but it works exceptionally well for refining the shape of the seat after initial chopping with the adze and then roughing with the inshave.

I have built a chair with Pete in his shop and the instruction in the video is dead on to what he would show you in person. It takes a bit of getting used to but you will get phenomenal results compared to other methods I tried to follow prior to his instruction.

Bottom line is that I think that travisher is a must have if you plan to make a number of windsors.

Unknown said...

One thing that I have to mention about this travisher that is really one of its best features is that the shape of the sole is perfect for shaping the back of the seat along the gutter. If you cut across the grain and skew it a little it just seems to make the perfect transition from the gutter down to the deepest part of the seat. It will come out so uniform and surprising the sharp clean even line that you get. Very little scraper work after that.

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks for all the comments, very interesting stuff. I know that the different wood species call for different approaches. I was inspired by the hard woods that we used in Australia to delve into the brass soles. I figure go with what works.
thanks again for taking the time to share your experience,

Unknown said...

woowww great post on home furniture :)