Monday, December 24, 2012

From Sea To Tree

So, gentle reader, we come to day twenty-four in this epic trawl through a blogger's desperate quest for topics. Didn't think I'd manage it, did you?

Me neither.

Anyway, to finish, I sorta refer back to the post from the 11th, for two reasons. Firstly, it reminded me, and thus I meant to remind you, that for most excellent, clear, and fascinating pencil drawings of wood-related labours that I reckon anyone interested in woodwork would enjoy, can I recommend "From Tree To Sea" by Ted Frost. It's unlikely that anyone reading this hankers to build an East Coast Steam Drifter, but I think you could take a good shot at doing so after reading this. But the real joy is in the drawings; both tools and techniques as well as the shipwright's finished work. Throw in the anecdotes and so forth, and yeah. Well worth seeking out. (Oh, except I just looked for the current availability, and ouch, some of those prices... Well, mayhap the local library may have a copy...?)

Secondly, also in the sketch book wherein there was much sea, I also found a tree.

Yeah, that's the actual size. I was always drawn to miniatures. "Drawn" to... Hah. Yeah, okay, moving on.

I'm mildly amazed it does actually look vaguely tree-like and not a green blob-onna-stick, which was the usual lot of trees suffering for my art. Done, I recall, in coloured inks, of which I was particularly fond. Which prodded my memory and lead to my digging out some virtually prehistoric wood-torture of mine.

An 'ickle box for 'ickle ink bottles.

This is the point where I should confess that in my youth I was more dangerous in an art shop than I am now in a tool shop. Yes, that bad. Scary thought, huh? Totally addicted to those beautifully presented Winsor & Newton inks, I was. Sigh. Time has lead to the pigment rather separating from the liquid, so I doubt they're of much practical use any more, unfortunately.

Under the compartment for pens and brushes, another small box for the nibs, and, for a reason that now escapes me, a cut-down matchbox for some paperclips. It's a bit like finding a stranger's box, to be honest, because I remember so little about it.

A flap in the lid pivots down on what appear to be bits of paper clip wire, to reveal a mixing wotsit, and a couple of pieces of elastic to hold the thing securely for travel.

Behold, the secret of successful joinery in Balsa wood when you're only tools are straight edge and scalpel. It ain't pretty, is it? Built up rebates using two layers of 1/8", reliance on an awful lot of UHU glue to hold it all together, and finally slap varnish over the whole lot in a bid to make it act more like wood and less like a dent magnet.

Amazingly it works. Still. The box is in one piece, the lid is a snug fit, the lid compartment flap doesn't come down until you pull it, etc. Could I do it now? Not a chance. No idea how I did it then. Ignorance is an extraordinarily helpful thing sometimes.

Mind you, looking back, I kinda wish my ignorance hadn't included the humble square. That would have saved some trouble.

With that, I bid you all Seasonal Felicitations. See you next year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nail Polish

 "Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

 "Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail."
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.

Funny how no-one can seem to quite decide what "dead as a door-nail" really refers to. Seems to be a split between the dead noise made by a door knocker hitting same; or the fact that they were clenched and thus not reusable.

Anyway, neither door nor coffin nails in these pages from the MAC catalogue #34 (date unknown, but probably early '20s), but still, you have ample opportunity to decide whether the prices of cut nails make them worth inclusion in the back of the old time machine or not.

I'm thinking ballast is always good, right?

Saturday, December 22, 2012


So the world didn't end. Darn; got to find something to blog then...

Okay, well an article on a guy called Daniel Brush caught my eye the other week. Something of a renaissance man, all self-taught, but in assorted materials other than wood. If you don't count his glorious studio floor, which he apparently sweeps every morning. It wasn't actually the NY Times that I was reading, but their article will do just as well. What takes the eye of the fully diagnosed tool junkie whilst gazing at the slideshow? Well naturally it's those chests and cabinets of tools. Another view in this article too.

My first thought was Holtzapffel for the open cabinet of tools, but I'm sure there must be US makers who are more likely candidates. And the plane in the foreground is intriguing; the thought of wood dust and all those intricately geared lathes makes me blench slightly, but then I wondered if they made planes for trimming lead type in wood as well as metal and I went off on a speculative ramble. Feel free to indulge likewise.

Anyway, interesting chap. I'm sure the photographs don't even begin to do justice to his craftsmanship - but somehow I don't think I'll be popping over to New York to visit the exhibition. Heigh ho.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tour De Frankly Nuts

I may have shared this one before, from the 1925 Woodworker. But anyway, for the benefit of those really dedicated to the electrickery-free woodworking life but who would sooner cut off their arm than be without their bandsaw.

And with this, there's probably every chance you could do just that...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ad Campaign

Further to yesterdays matchlessness, a little more from the MAC catalogue, April 1927. Tempted to scan every single picture in the front pages of same; everything from the handful of sturdy moustachioed gentlemen representing The Staff in 1908 vs. The Considerable Ranks of The Staff in 1926, to the stockroom full of nothing but bathtubs. But confined myself to the departments likely to be of most interest to the potential time-travelling reader.

Is that a fine display of hooks, screws, nails, etc on the end of that fitment? Don't you just long to distract the gentlemen behind the counter, skip over same, and have a prolonged rifle through those shelves of stock? I'll hold your hat.

Right, I'll take a treadle grindstone, one of those lathes, a mortising machine... Delivery? I think that may be a problem, but I have my own transport. Yes, it's that one with the whirly wheel device on the back. Yes, that's right, the one parked in front of the dress shop.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Come with me to 1927, and specifically thumb through the pages of The Metal Agencies Co. Ltd or "Mac" catalogue. Okay, you may go back and dawdle over all the other fascinating things later, but first, take a look at this full page, colour insert for Beckett's Matchless Files. Now I will allow that nothing says reliable tooling like a sturdy arm, sleeve rolled up, grasping a file within the horny hand, right?

But what does an Art Nouveau style border in delicate yellow and blue say exactly...?

I absolutely love it; it's such a bizarre juxtaposition.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vegetable Slicer

The other evening, as the collective brains assembled here at The Towers attempted the Daily Telegraph Quick Crossword, one of the answers prompted my mother to suddenly reveal;

"My mother used to play the mandolin".

Now it wasn't quite as out of the blue as that sounds, because the clue was "Lute-like instrument" and eight letters, but the information was. Ancestry being what it is, my mother's mother is, or rather was, my grandmother. And I had absolutely no idea. Suddenly information flowed, and apparently she and her parents (Ancestral inevitability suggests they'd be my great grandparents) used to play together.

Well I'm damned.

My grandmother was not a lady of leisure, thrumming delicate stringed instruments whilst waiting to be swept off her feet by some passing swain. She was out of school and working at fourteen, and I imagine the solicitor's office she was working in was low on swains.

Anyway, mandolins. S'funny, 'cos I've always liked the mandolin as it happens. One of my favourite pieces by Vivaldi being his Concerto for two of same in G Major:

But more than that, I love the outrageous decoration on the flashier, bulbous-bodied examples. Generally I'm not a fan of curlicues and fancy twiddles on things, be they tools, furniture, or whathaveyou, but mandolins, lutes and so forth? For some reason I can't get enough. Which is why, when I see things like this, I wish like crazy there were approximately 3000% more photographs at four times the detail:

But still, you get the idea. And there's more, if, like me, you fancy an extended drool with possibly a side trip into fantasy. You know the one; where all those tools in the w'shop miraculously (and finally) make you into the genius who could possibly vaguely consider making such a thing themselves.

Of the plainer sort. Much plainer. If it could produce a note, that'd be pretty good.

It doesn't do to aim too ridiculously high in your fantasies.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Okay, so remember the bits of wood that were teetering on the brink between reuse and restore? Recall the might-be-Mahonia that we started the month with? Recall asking about tips on wedge-making? And most vital of all as it turned out, yesterday's Elizabethan name-calling? Add an hour or so of w'shop time carved from somewhere (i.e. I was in too much of a hurry), and you get this mash-up of a result.

I can't do wedges. I just can't. They always look like manure, especially when I manage to split off bits of them and have to wing some kind of alternative design*. But there, it's kinda functional, which is a step up from being two bits of wood, and I got to make some shavings, which is a step up from forgetting where the w'shop is.

*By "design", I do not mean a well thought-out solution to a problem. I mean a bodge. Just in case you were in any doubt.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bad Bard

It's that time of the year when tempers can fray a little and one finds the need to vent. If, like me, you're a fully paid-up member of the Amalgamated Society of Workmen Who Blame Their Tools, a pithy word on the subject of the marital status of the begetters of the saw in hand might come to mind all year round. Does this lead to tut-tutting from the surrounding populace? Do sensitive ears need to be covered as you struggle with the Crimbo lights?

Fear not. What you want to do is bring some culture to your cursing, and who better than The Bard to provide.

I'm certainly going to print out a copy to hang handily near the bench. Thus, the next chisel to wilfully split the work, can look forward to being roundly condemned as a "loggerheaded knotty-pated bum-bailey", which'll teach it.

Hmm, actually maybe that last bit would be better kept for badly behaving Stanley bench planes...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

All Wrapped Up

Okay, hand's up who's used the old catalogue-lying-around ruse to get the pressie they wanted from their nearest and dearest? Yeah, the old ones are the best, aren't they Stanley? This one from November 1951.

I added the colour, and am pretty darn sure it's not correct. But it is festive, so ya boo sucks.

Let us draw a tinsel veil across the rampant gender stereotyping; I'd blame the attitudes of the time, but it's not any too hot these days either, so... Yeah, drawing that veil. See how it shines and glitters? Watch the pretty tinsel. You're feeling sleepy. Very, very sleepy... Now I'm going to suggest to you that you're a chicken, and every time someone says "Beetroot" you'll be unable to resist the urge to cluck...

No, wait, that's another post.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Concerning an unusual Charles found upon a brace. Sorry, too formal? A Chuck then, if you will...

If pressed, I will claim that I seldom buy individual braces. They accumulate via the medium of those package deals known as "the tool chest" or "the fiver for the lot" and so forth. Except it's not actually true. All too many braces of unusual size or design or make have followed me home simply because they were a brace of unusual size or design or make.

One such is this singularly unprepossessing 10" example.

It wasn't even that shiny when I got it, no plating to speak of, blue-painted pad and handle. But it's got the button-type ratchet selector, which is rather cool and just a little bit swanky and first took my eye.

Under the rust, there was a trade name revealed; Comet.

As it happens, the handful of Woodworker magazines (rather than bound annuals) I have from the 1950s gives me many helpful adverts to peruse, CoMeT tools being one such. Here's one from February 1954:

And one from August of 1951. Neither terribly helpful at showing the details of the brace, but I don't think either match.

At least I assume it will be the same Comet; there might have been someone else using the name, of course. Anyway, I can't seem to find any dates for H & D Churchill outside the 1950s; but perhaps there simply aren't any. But in looking I did find this, which demonstrates that well-known chain of frustration from customer to retailer to wholesaler to manufacturer was alive and well in 1954.

Anyway, the bit that clinched the "it's different; I can justify it" purchase was, of course, the chuck.

I should pause here, and admit that every time I set forth to get clear in my mind which chuck type is called which, I slip and fall in a quagmire of patents and confusion, get a splitting headache, and run away before understanding anything. So you're welcome to tell me what this is called and I'll be entirely grateful and not in the least embarrassed at not knowing. My best guess was is would be classed as this one, but then folks mutter about subtle differences and... Gah. Whatever. It looks like this:

The jaws pivot, and there's a nice 'ickle spring to keep the jaws open for your convenience and comfort.

The shell of the chuck tightens up from the back, if you see what I mean, and closes the jaws. Simple but surprisingly effective.

The unhappy by-product of this brace that I had failed to foresee is that now I'm wondering if I can find a tool connection to all Santa's other reindeer. Bet there's a Rudolph someone who was in the tool business in Germany, but some of the others might be a bit of a struggle. Suggestions welcomed in the comments box.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Octopi On The Blog Again

All this countdown to the holiday season, and I've singularly failed to blog anything festive yet. Tsk. So, given that it's carrying both a tool and a tree and thus about the most relevant post this blog has seen in days, how about an Ax Wielding Octopus?

Because nothing says Christmas like Ax Wielding Octopi, am I right? Although admittedly, in this picture, he/she/it looks a little like he/she/it is contemplating ending it all with said edge tool, rather than going on a tree felling spree. Which, from a certain (cynical) angle, maybe says a lot about Christmas too...

Or is that just me?

Yet more extraordinary creations in felt viewable here, and the maker's website. Amazing and amusing, which is always a good combination.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It's 12/12/12!

And not even the Americans disagree. Unless someone rustles up a thirteenth month next year, that's your lot now until 2101. So, yeah, not going to be an issue for most of us.

Next significant date is supposed to be 21/12/12 (More significant if you're American, funnily enough). End of the world, according to the Mayans. Why we're suddenly taking notice of the Mayans when we've cheerfully ignored them for centuries, I have no idea, but if it means we avoid Christmas, I don't mind. An asteroid must be favourite, and no Patrick Moore to tell us about it. Now there's an omen. So book now to avoid getting left out...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gawd Bless Yer, Merry Poppins

Whilst diving courageously into the depths of the Drawer of Doom without the aid of a safety net, I ran across an old sketch book of mine that I haven't seen in years; yea, even unto having no memory of it even existing. Most of the contents dates from the summer of '93 and a holiday up on the Cornwall/Devon border. For woodworkers, that geographically translates as "Near David Charlesworth's". I recall it because the cottage had no television and I was missing the final Ashes Test of the series at the Oval, and the only one England managed to win (cricket, 'Murricans). It rankles still, as you may be able to tell.

In amongst the various landscapes and coastlines, it seems a bit of woodworking caught my eye. In a "Oh, good grief, the builder of this gate overdosed on the rural rustic charm before building" kinda way.
Nowadays I'd be taking more notice of the gate (not least, getting the perspective right - pretty sure it wasn't actually as warped as that sketch suggests). Rather a nice change to have the sweeping top rail. I recall that robin did actually pose exactly like that, in the way of British robins. I gather that continental European robins remain the shy woodland creatures they're supposed to be and do not leap on every photo opportunity presented to them. US robins, of course, are quite another thing and three times the size; as witnessed by the one nearly breaking Julie Andrews' wrist in "Mary Poppins".

Ooo, I found a legitimate reason to blog Julie Andrews; that'll be hard to top. Also it's an opportunity to point out that Dick Van Dyke's "Cockney" accent isn't the only thing in that film to make a true-blooded Brit curdle at the edges.

Where was I? Yeah; sketches, the past, where did my vague ability to draw go? Stuff like that. Sigh. When did 1993 get to be nearly twenty years ago anyway? I'm getting to be as old as I feel, which is a trifle disturbing...

Monday, December 10, 2012


Despite what you might think, I'm trying not to repeat myself here, while also relying an awful lot on blog fodder that I already have on hand. A tricky line to tread, as you may imagine, and not helped when the interweb speed is absolutely crawling so checking what I've done before is a form of torture. And adding photos ain't happening until it picks up speed a little. 

So, while we wait for that miracle, further to that gauge and the making of wedges for same. Well, that and a number of other wedges needed here and there for tools various. What the heck is the secret?

I mean, I can make a wedge. Of sorts. In a hack-it-out kinda way, but every time I feel like I'm reinventing the wheel. Art more than science. What is the secret to successful wedge making? Is there a primer for same anywhere? "Wedges; A New Angle" or some such title? I don't mean churning out twenty at a time like the planemakers and toolmakers of yore (and now-a-yore, for all I know), because I only ever seem to need one or two, and there never seem to be three alike.

Have at it in the comments box, folks. Your methods, pointers to books or articles, any darn thing. I welcome all and anything to assist me. Or maybe even inspire me to actually, um, make some. As we're waiting for miracles anyway...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Cross Hatch

Sunday being a day of rest (historically, if not always in actuality these days), I'm giving my little grey cells a rest from coming up with vaguely relevant woodworking topics. That's my excuse...

Although, it didn't work, because instead I was wracking my brains to remember when PJ's hatch day was (PJ being the pre-owned, occasionally homicidaly-inclined Senegal parrot who dwells with us here at The Towers).

I knew she was 15 this year (15! Yikes!), but couldn't recall whether her hatch day was the 7th or 9th of December. Eventually I had to give in, go through The Drawer of Doom where all the important stuff goes to get lost, and find the scrap of paper that told me... it was the 4th, and I'd missed it. Again.

PJ tends to feel things deeply, having had a somewhat troubled chick- and early bird-hood, so it's just as well she can't read a calendar or I'd have to be counting my ears and checking I still had two. So, to make up, here's a blog entry all her own to mark the occasion.

Okay, not just her. What can I say? She has a magnetic attraction and just draws certain people to her... Lucy, the cat, no longer does nerve-wracking things like this. She's developed a healthy respect for just what a beak can do to soft paws and delicate noses, so all communication tends to be at a safe distance now. Thus, when she can resist the lure no longer, she sits four feet away and mews her desire to eat PJ. PJ glares back with an aura of "Come on then, pal. If you think you're hard enough" and metaphorically breaks off the end of a bottle on the bar. Stalemate ensues.

And finally, PJ with her best-beloved, Bertie. Talk about an odd couple; she has all the brains, and he... well, he lets her do anything she wants, as long as he doesn't have to lift a claw. It's like they were meant to be. Indeed, this touching scene is actually PJ just about to pluck out yet another one of Bertie's head feathers. He is, quite literally, hen-pecked. Bald, but happy.

There ya go, PJ. Happy Belated Hatch Day. Yeah, yeah, okay, I'll shut up now and get you a peanut. Sheesh.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Restore or Recycle

Will you look at that - a week down and still going. It's a miracle, I tells ya.

So, just for a change, I can ask you to cast your mind back a mere week rather than several years, and my confession concerning the state of my wood stocks. I keep stuff. Lots of it. Little bits. Really little bits. I tell myself "Hey, that might come in for something one day, you never know" far too often to be wise. In the spirit of admitting you have a problem being the first step to overcoming said problem, I thought I'd take a picture. I got this far and got side-tracked.

See, this isn't the worst squirrelling of paltry pieces of p-, er, wood, by any means, but it is the one that might upset some folks. It's not that long ago that it would have probably had me grinding my teeth a tad. It's where tools go to die. Well, wooden bits of tools, and more specifically rosewood and boxwood.

It's here where the wooden subjects of that tricky decision between restoration and recycle end up. That four-fold rule? I have all the parts, but one of the hinges is trashed. Maybe I could have tried fixing it, but on the other hand, at some point a short length of rule with inch markings may be exactly what I need. (Crivens; there I go again...) And failing that, well-seasoned boxwood, kids! The chisel handle was split and missing a chunk; once upon a time I might have sweated over repairing and replacing, but instead I've already had a couple of nice wedges for restoring a panel gauge out of it and there's still plenty to come. That husk of the Masons' Boxwood Plumb and Level had split where the screws had rusted, so donated its parts to its brother who was in slightly better condition and now back in fully working order.

But there is one still slightly teetering-on-the-line tool in there that's now been drawn to my attention. That gauge. At the moment it's just stock (beech) and stem (rosewood), and I can pretend it's just bits of wood and not another thing that should be on the To Do List. But really all it needs are two wedges and a blade (for I would guess it was made as a cutting gauge). And I do happen to have some suitable bits to make the wedges with, after all...

#46758595: Repair cutting gauge.

I could really go off this blogging every day idea, y'know...

Friday, December 07, 2012

Take Down

Ooo, some of you are very good at this, and fast too. On the other hand, I did catch out a fair few by duplicitously hinting at adjustability. We'll call it a score draw.

Yes, the mystery pic didn't show the parts fully "home" so I could lead you astray with thoughts of patented augers and such, but here it is, fully locked and not quite such a close up.

Zoom out a little more, and behold, it is, indeed, a "take-down" framing square. A cunning whizz that eliminated that ever-recurring problem for the framing square user - where to put the darn thing in the tool box. The dovetail slide and locking screw make it really very rigid and it's actually square. Even in this example, which has suffered more than a little in its life; alas, even with the helpful direction indicating arrow, someone tried to tighten it up the wrong way, and did Bad Things at some point. Jeff saved me a lot of time with his correct guess, by also providing a link to the patent - much obliged, Jeff!

Once again, it was one of the former owners of the Newlyn Tool Chest who spared no expense and went for the top of the range from Stanley; a No. R100TD. And it really was an expensive choice; according to the September 1937 "MAC" catalogue, they cost a hefty 26/6 each. An equivalent fixed Stanley square in the same catalogue was a mere 15/-. For the benefit of Americans and anyone else for whom the shilling is a closed book, a 1920s Stanley USA catalogue shows $5.05 and $2.70 respectively. Basically, it's nearer twice as much as not, so no wonder you don't see them much.

The Stanley Little Big Book tells me it was made between 1919-1947 (presumably starting around when Eagle Square was swallowed by Stanley?), and that the key and canvas sack are frequently missing. The Old Tool Archive suggests one half of the square can often be missing too. Well anyway, I have the sack, albeit rather the worse for wear.

But from the state of the slot on the locking screw, you've probably guessed that I don't have the key, and it was lost long before I acquired the square. There's a little pocket in between the two long ones for the arms wherein the key was, I imagine, intended to live. Sad.

Perhaps I've never been tuned to noticing them, but I don't recall seeing framing squares much at all round these parts (right-angles in Cornish buildings aren't really much of a thing), so it seems doubly unlikely that of all the framing squares in all the world, this apparently atypical example should wend its way into my w'shop. I kinda like it, although I've never used it and in all likelihood never shall. Although maybe if it had a replacement key or key-substitute, I might... Where's the To Do List?

#46758594: Make key for take-down square.

Le sigh.

Anyway, now you car boot and flea market types know to start looking out for ratty canvas pouches now as well as more obvious rust - you never know what you might find inside. And thanks for for playing along and taking a guess!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Tool-oholic Teaser

Okay, I admit it; this one is an utterly premeditated teaser. I'm evil that way. Also, I'm interested to see who, if anyone, will know/guess it. So have at it in the comments and make your best guess; I'll refrain from clearing comments for publication until I blog the answer.

Y'know, looking at it again, it's possible this may be too easy...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

We'll Need Considerably Bigger Buns

So, this 'ere plane then. Colloquially known as an "infill" or, sometimes, as a "heavy sonofa-".

This example is 9" long, a full 2 5/8" wide casting (no dovetails here), with a hefty 2 1/4" Thomas Ibbotson & Co. tapered iron. Stuffed, I believe, with rosewood. Weight is... heavy. I haven't put it on the scales, but you certainly wouldn't want to drop it on your foot. Or even pick it up much, to be honest.

And before you ask, yes, those are spots of rust. No exclamation from you about it will compare with the curses I directed at myself when I saw them. It has been an exceedingly wet year, but still... Horrors.

Now, whilst Mr A was spending his formative years learning to be a joiner and offending his mother with talk of "stuff", there was a Mr H. W. "Harry" Harrison also labouring in the workshop. Whether he was a Harold or Henry, I don't know; mayhap he was a Hubert, Horace, or Horatio and the "Harry" came about merely from his surname. History is silent on the matter. Whatever his given name, my notes from conversation with Mr A tell me he passed away in 1950, which is probably when Mr A came into possession of this beast. Now my notes also tell me that Mr A was born in 1930, so how he afforded such a thing at such a young age, we can but speculate. Maybe it went cheaply because, at some tragic point, its nose had hit the w'shop floor and broken off the unusually curly front bun.

At least it's unusual to me; I've never seen one like it. But possibly this is the moment to confess that my interest in infills is... lacking. Quintessentially British tool evolution it may be, but I can't get excited about them hardly at all. So odds are heavily in favour of someone reading this being able to tell a lot more about it than I ever will. Feel free to share, if you do.

F'rinstance, the expert may look at this lever cap and be able to tell you who's catalogue Harry ordered it from. For Harry is said to have made it, and honestly, apart from the vulnerable choice of front bun design, he made a pretty damn good fist of it.

Which brings about a question in my mind; joinery does not usually conjure up infill planes and rosewood. It's more windows, doors, stairs, maybe some mahogany? So I wonder what Harry had been doing in earlier years? Perhaps advancing age meant he could no longer do the cabinetwork he'd done in his prime? Or maybe the post-war era just needed more joiners than infill-weilders? No idea, but I can't help speculating. Go on, try and stop me.

You can see how far down the top of the iron rests against the rear handle; it's a well worn tapered iron, and as a result the mouth is considerably more open than modern tastes would like to see. And probably traditional tastes too. I love the neat fit of the infill into the casting at the heel, and the handle itself looks shapely enough...

But really no picture could possibly convey just how uncomfortable I find it. Oh, I see you rolling your eyes and muttering about "Alf and her handles" again, and yeah, perhaps. But in the search for the perfect finish I reckon Harry thinned the thickness of the handle down too far, and it bites a bit. Otherwise, you can see it's a pretty roomy grip, which is not always the case with old tools.

So that's the only infill bench plane in my possession. Occasionally I think I should probably sell it to someone who'd appreciate it more, but then I think I really ought to have one (British and all, old boy, what, what), and I'm never likely to acquire another, and any financial gain is likely to be far smaller than the nagging dissatisfaction I'd have about selling it. So, I keep it. In theory I know about 3000% more about how to make it go than I did ten years ago when I acquired it, so maybe I'll have another go at it some time and see if the scales fall and I gain a better appreciation of why folks get so excited by infills.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Promise on my combi plane c*ll*ct**n, I did not intend to drag this out this much, but so-called real life will insist on getting in the way... Dropping this one to keep the Tool-oholics from suffering DTs, and will explain all I know (not much), and hopefully get further pictures edited and uploaded tomorrow. Don't throw things; this one was trimmed and fluffed for your delectation at 4am this morning to ensure at least something would appear, so it's not like I've not been thinking of you ;)

Monday, December 03, 2012


Day three and already I'm wondering how soon I'm going to fail miserably in this self-imposed challenge, and miss a day of posting. But that day will not be today, for whilst perusing the notes on the tools I bought from Mr A, I was reminded of one of particular interest that I don't think I ever properly bored anyone with before. Here's a teaser:

Now I know you folks; you want more. More! But the countdown to Crimbo is all about anticipation, kiddies. Plus I've finally finished a fascinating tome entitled Teasing Tool Junkies on The Interweb; A Expert's Guide from Lee Valley and want to advance beyond just theory... So tune in tomorrow.

Or maybe Wednesday, depending on how how soon I'm going to fail miserably etc.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Tool Stories

So mentioning "stuff" yesterday, reminded me of one of my old tool buying encounters. One of the things I miss most about not being on the tool hunt any more is not the actual tools so much, as the people you meet. One such was a gentleman, Mr A, with an assortment of surplus tools from his early years as a joiner. He recalled starting training as a "setter out" in a joinery workshop, and on being asked by his mother what he'd learnt, he eagerly explained how he'd been told to take some 6" "stuff" and... Only to be chastised by his mother for using such an inaccurate word as "stuff", and no amount of protestation on his part would get her to believe that was the proper term.

Looking back at my brief notes of the time, I see his father had worked at William Greenslade's, the planemakers, in Bristol, and he remembered seeing the paring chisels used for cutting the escapements. Polished all the way up the back (for you folks who think that's merely a modern affectation), and pushed with the shoulder. If I recall correctly he said as the paring chisel approached the point of being too short a length for the job, the unhappy planemaker would start the laborious job of lapping the back of the replacement, spreading the work over several weeks or months. I seem to be spreading that particular work over several years, myself... He also claimed the beech plane blanks were stored in the rafters to season for ten years before use. Can't see the accountants smiling on that idea these days, but certainly I have no complaints about the examples of Greenslade planes that I own.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Grows On Trees

Tarnation - I missed November. Botheration. I dunno, this year seems to have flown by on a month-by-month basis, while absolutely dragging hour by hour. Most peculiar.

Anyway, December. Possibly my least favourite month of the year, and this one has started out right nippy too. Urgh. I might try and post every day in the run up to the "Winter Festival", just to see if I can. Woodworking will be the first choice of subject, but it probably depends on how desperate I get for Blog Fodder, because, naturally, I haven't planned ahead. Of course, by now, I'm probably back to talking to just myself and all the spammers anyway, but, hey, that's never stopped me before...

So the foundation of woodworking is, um, wood. Timber. Lumberrrrr. "Stuff", as they say in the joinery trade, in an effort to blind us with technical terms. Casting my mind back several months (like twenty) I remembered the piece of possibly-Mahonia that I cut open to reveal a rather stunning yellow. Here 'tis.

Unusual, innit?

Well, I wondered at the time how it would age, so hustled down to the w'shop to dig it out after twenty months exposed to the air and UV light, and here's the answer. On the left, the back that was deliberately kept face down; on the right, the face side, roughly planed.

So, definitely mellowed even out of direct light, but the face side has gone a rather lovely but less remarkable golden brown. Not terribly surprisingly. It's a bit reminiscent of aged Boxwood, and has similar tight grain - grows just as slowly, so again, not a shocker. Unlike Boxwood, it doesn't have that slightly buttery quality when worked though. Figures. Still, it cost me nothing but my time, and it's bound to come in handy some time. Things always do, however small.

And that philosophy right there explains an awful lot about the state of my wood shelves...