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Woodworking with Diego de Assis

  Secrets of Restoration by Diego de Assis 1 of 5  


Diego de Assis

Contact:  Diego


Diego de Assis was born in 1973 in Londrina, Parana.  He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1989, currently living in Niteroi.

He is a designer, trained by the College of Industrial Design of the UFRJ.  In 1993, he established his first workshop, working regularly with individuals in the development of the design and the construction of furniture.

From 2003 through SENAI-RJ, he started activities as Woodworking Teacher of the social project “Usina da Cidadania”, sponsored by the Refinery of Manguinhos.  Since then, he has taught in various free courses, including teaching of technical drawing.  Along with other specialists he participated in drafting the reference documents for the courses of Woodsmanship and Guitar-making for SENAI-RJ.  In addition to these activities, he is working as a furniture designer.


When acquiring an old tool I promptly ask for information on its origin, since the value of a tool is in its history.  Here are some important questions to be made to the dealer:

  • What is the origin of the piece? (place and time)

  • Does it have a brand? (sometimes the information is not visible)

  • What kind of wood is it made of? (in the case of wood tools, of course!)

During the nineteenth century, Brazilian timber - such as rosewood and
gonçalo-alves - were often used in the manufacturing of foreign tools, namely by Isaac Greaves, one of the most prominent English trade names of that period.

Information about the tool is also useful for its restoration, but sometimes the supplier is unable to provide it.  If so, one might have to extract evidences from the piece itself.

It is very difficult to specify dates, exception are marked and catalogued tools.  In the case of wood planes, the difficulty increases considerably.  I often come across pieces made by anonymous craftsmen, where the brand - considering there is any – only appears on the iron.  In such cases, each craftsman would build his own tool, according to the blade he would have acquired.

Restoration vs. Remodeling

It is essential to bear in mind that what is important is to rebuild, to fetch the original aspect of the piece.  Any change, even if "for the better", will disregard this aspect.  Unlike a remodeling, restoration aims to exalt the nature of the piece, rescuing the time in which it was created.

The remodeling will update and, in effect, destroy the story of an old tool.  So, within the limits of a restoration, it is necessary to consider:

  • The reconstruction of parts of a tool (grafts) should, whenever possible, be made with the same kind of wood.

  • Old tools should not be varnished, unless you are using an original recipe. Traditionally, linseed oil is used to preserve the wooden and metal parts of old pieces.  Waxes and furniture polish may also be used.

  • Signs of use should not be erased, as they are the "scars" of an old tool.

  • Some tools are reproduced nowadays, which means that not every used tool is necessarily old.  Likewise, there are unused old tools which appear to be new.

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Scraper Planes


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