Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oaky dokey

Well I dunno where the time goes; could have sworn I'd only Blogged a day or two ago. Anyway, progress is being made. Saturday saw me reach this stage. Joints cut and fitted and it's looking like something instead of a pile of scrubby-looking boards - which is marginally encouraging. A good deal of chisel work involved, plus a lot of sharpening. This oak is pretty well seasoned now, and chipping of edges was commonplace. I steepened the bevels, but even so it was a struggle. I've worked out where it came from now. Three sources in total; British Hardwoods, left over from the Millennium gate I made; a factory in Swindon via a mate of my brothers; and the Tregothnan Estate here in Cornwall. So some is air-dried (and pretty flippin' useless, if I'm honest), most is kiln-dried, and all of it has been skulling about in the workshop for "a while"...

Monday saw me going insane with planer/thicknesser and bandsaw, turning all remaining available oak into as much 1/2" stuff as I could. I had to tickle up the edges of the planer blades twice during the process - did I mention how tough some of that oak is? Things were not helped by the blade on the bandsaw being as blunt as a comment from Dame Edna Everage. I just squeezed out enough for the job. Putting most of it temporarily in the framework seemed the best way to keep it reasonably flat and straight - the rest is in stick under weights. I've yet to play about finding the best combination of boards for looks. Should be fun; I've only a couple of pieces as wide as 6", a lot of it being under 2" wide... Anyway, I've now got some alleged exterior glue to glue up the panels, bought this morning, but it ain't gonna happen soon 'cos I have a stinking cold.

Caution: Pathetic sorry-for-myself moaning follows.

On Sunday morning I had a sore throat - now I have an alternately running and blocked nose, sore throat, headache, cough, sneezes and occasional rises in temperature. If I was a bloke it'd be 'Flu ;~) So I'm feeling very sorry for myself (can you tell?) and crossing everything that it'll get it all over and done with now so I'll be hale and hearty for Sunday. Being sick on Christmas Day is No Fun. I'm properly fed up with waking up every couple of hours to allow the gunk in my head to subside so I can get a couple of hours more sleep, I tell you.

Okay, finished now.

To cheer me up, I've had not one, but two unexpected Christmas pressies from fellow woodworkers. How nice is that? I'm hopeless; I can't even make stuff for my own family nevermind be organised enough to do that. Must do better next year.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

(Not) got it taped

Gott in himmel, but I hate tailed routers. Noisy, messy and always seem to have a mind of their own. But there it is, needs must and time is at a premium at the moment, so grooves and mortises for this oak planter have been routed with a combination of my Roy Sutton mortise jig and the 'Rat. I come in from the workshop tired and coated in dust and get an earful from the would-be recipient on the subject of sawdust and piles of laundry. Grrr. I resisted the urge to point out it's for her benefit by dint of biting my tongue. I may mention it after the birthday though - if I remember... Meanwhile I'd appreciate everyone crossing all spare apendages in the hopes that'll make what-appears-to-be-not-enough-oak stretch far enough to make the side panels. I see alot of edge jointing and gluing up panels in my future... Anyone got a favoured exterior glue, btw?

Meanwhile I'm revisiting the "Good Old Days" of cassettes - my only non-classical Christmas muzak is on tape, so out comes the radio/cassette player. The only other time it gets used is during the cricket season. Anyway, isn't it awful how often you have to turn the damn things over? I've got nearly three solid days of tunes on the 'puter - changing sides/discs has become unknown territory to me. Good fun though, blasting out Slade, Wizzard, Shakie and so forth. I used to have a bit of a thing for Shakin' Stevens - when I was about seven... :~D As it happens I bought this tape way back when I passed my driving test. I had many hours to kill in Truro before catching the train back up to London (it's a long story) and bought the tape as my reward for being able to stop in an emergency and do a three-point turn. Ah, memories...

Humph, even as I typed that the tape deck has packed up. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Making 10ft of oak do the work of 20...

Well despite having to sprint over the border and back on Saturday (playing Father Christmas to get Crimbo pressies to some of the family) I had quite a productive weekend. Got the Bench-on-bench finished, even down to a coat of BLO. I'm quite pleased with it, even if it does make the proper workbench top look a bit unloved now in comparison. Time will tell if I've got it right, or whether I'll have to do a certain amount of alteration, not to say rebuilding. Fingers crossed...

Pausing only to draw breath I've launched into something for Mum's birthday at the end of January. My long term reader may remember my idea - way back - to make oak planters for Crimbo pressies? Well that, obviously, came to nought, but I got to thinking that that's something my Mum would appreciate. So I resuscitated
the idea and spent a mind-numbingly boring morning (machine) planing and sawing all sort of lousy lengths of oak to size. No way would I have had enough for two, never mind two pairs. It's the rails that add up. I think I'll just be able to squeeze out one long one - and I haven't honestly checked to see if I'll have enough stuff for the sides. Oh well, living on the edge a bit, but it might be fun. But you can see why I'm trying to get on with it; at least this way I might have time to get some more oak if it turns out I am short!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

All screwed up

The bench-on-bench rumbles slowly on; got the vice jaws planed up yesterday. Cunningly I made a shallow rebate in the back of the rear jaw/apron so it'll register against the top easily come glue-up time. #45 to plough a shallow groove at the correct distance, followed up with the #140 to complete the rebate. I'm still in the learning curve stage with that darn plane; every time I adjust the depth I feel I should cry out "thar she skews" in some sort of misplaced Moby Dick fantasy. That is, she skews when I don't want her to, which is a small irritation. Now I've become more aware of it in the LNs I'm finding it everywhere I look. Mildly annoying, once your attention is drawn to it.

Then today it was a hike between w'shop and garage to turn up a couple of vice screws. Before I've had excellent success with old wooden curtain rods for taking a clean thread, so that's what I turned up, all nice and neat and matching. Took me ages, I'm so out of practice. The trouble is, as well as the lathe no longer being handily "there", it also involves unlocking another padlock, removing the sheets shrouding the lathe and grinder, plugging in, turning, cleaning up the mess, re-shrouding the lathe and grinder etc etc. It's such a pain, I tend to get lazy and avoid doing anything at all... Anyway. Gave the new sizing tool for the bedan a trial, and once I'd filed off the swarf it was, well, okay. I'm not sure it's that much more helpful than just having a handy spanner of the required size ready to test as you go, to be honest. Could be my technique though. Probably is. My turning has gone from mediocre to "hack" I'm ashamed to say. Anyway, back to the ranch, soak in BLO and go to tap the threads.

Merde. Threads crumbling left, right and centre. This is in no way the same timber I had success with previously. In short, it's No Good. Bum. Okay, so beech would work, and I just happen to have some skulling about. Square it up on the bandsaur, traipse back up the garage, remove all the protective sheeting from the lathe again, plug in, set up etc etc. Grumble, grumble, moan, moan. Turn the first one and, gott in himmel, the last inch and a half has suddenly acquired a split and is breaking up. For the love of Norm, who's black cat did I strangle while standing under a ladder? Damn it, I'm not mucking about again, so I reduce the length of the "boss" to increase the available thread length; not as much as it was, but this vice in potentia is for dovetailing, not holding a 2x4 widthways. Much to my relief the threading went a-okay, so at least I ended up with something to show for my efforts.

Anyway, you'll be pleased to hear I failed to take any pics at all yesterday, and only one (of the subsequently failed curtain rod) today. Sometimes words are enough to convey it was just One Of Those Days.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bench mark

Slow, but tangible, progress on the bench-on-bench. It's not a thing of beauty, but by gum, it's solid. Maybe it's just me, but it somehow has a sort of Japanese feeling to it. Maybe it's the low height... The "legs" are not yet glued together and I haven't even begun on the twin screw vice yet, which is bound to be fun. Sigh. As ever I was deluding myself that something could be a quick project... While hunting round t'net for some further ideas, I stumbled across this article which has one or two tips. I wondered about adding a base of ply to act as a metal working/tool cleaning alternative top, but I'm not sure I can take the extra height that'd entail. As it is, it's turned out I prefer something lower than perhaps I'd expected. Too high and aspects of the female anatomy can hamper free movement in sawing and so forth... For the same reasons, you might often find female galoots preferring a ratcheting brace even when the full swing of the brace isn't blocked by outside influences :~) Not something that ever occurred to the usual run of galoot, I'm betting. And I beg you, don't dwell on it!

As far as the vice screws go, I'm starting to have doubts as to whether the 3/4" tap and die I have will be big enough for the task. I suppose I can always replace them with something sturdier if they break.

In case you're marvelling at the presence of the LN in the pic, it did a marvellous job of cleaning up the end grain of the top. I find I'm thinking of it more and more as a larger size of block plane, which has come as a bit of a surprise. The LV bevel-up family were out in force to level up the top, and work together as a team very well. The final pass with the BUS brought out some super depth in the figure of the ex-door frame I'm using for the legs - quite made me stop and go "wow". Kind of wish I hadn't used it for this job now! Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lights! Camera! Action!

If a tidy workbench is the sign of a sick mind, what does christmas lights in your workshop indicate? Discuss.

Alternatively discuss what kind of flying thing that reminds you of...

In other news, inspired by Jarviser's example, I've made myself a little glue pot. I've got the pot. I've got the iron. I've got the pearl glue. All I need now is the nerve. Don't hold your breath now, will you?

Also, surprising myself, I've made a small start on the FWW/Chris/Adam inspired "Bench-on-Bench". The top's glued up, just debating on the best way to make the legs with a minimum amount of timber - my usual problem. At some point I have to get back to the lathe to make the vice screws, which could be fun given the long lay-off I've had from round-spinny things....

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Theory Practice

Tsk, I seem to be in rather a serious trough of "Theoretical Woodworking" at the moment. I'm tempted to indulge myself and make the bench-on-bench just to kick start me into proper woodworking again. Really I need to, 'cos I ought to be thinking about my mum's birthday at the end of January - hints have been dropped that something I've made is virtually expected. Ack. I kind of know what I'd like to do, but that's a long way from doing it, as you all know... A bit like T L-N saying a #043 is high on his list of tools he'd like to make - it's not the same as being the next thing they're actually making. Good news though, all the same.

Meanwhile I'm amusing myself by trying to think of a new angle on the eternal tool storage question. The recurring theme of my previous efforts has been a lack of flexibility, so how can I address the fluctuating nature of my tool kit? Seems to me the only answer is to have tools in small groups, possibly on seperate boards or holders, that can be moved round a cabinet independantly of the other tools. So if the chisel choice changes, f'rinstance, you just make or alter a new chisel holder to accommodate the changes. It's not an entirely original idea of course, but I don't think it's ever been taken to the extreme of doing that for everything. Possibly because it isn't practical! But I did have a novel thought for using up the air space you often get between the tools on the back of a cupboard and the doors, plus giving the option of taking certain tools to the bench in one go. Whether it'll work outside the dubious confines of my imagination is anyone's guess, but I may get round to trying a prototype sometime. Maybe.

Third disappointment

S'okay, I remembered what it was overnight. While testing various auger bits for fit, one hit a very hard knot in my test piece. There was a Bad Noise and the lead screw snapped clean off. :~( I was very good, and merely remarked aloud "That's a bit off". And I didn't even intend the groan-worthy pun. Trouble is I've now got a small auger bit shortage in the ever useful 3/4" size - oh well, one'll "turn" up I 'spect (groan).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Well I forgot to post about the big news today, didn't I? Yep, the decision by APTC not to hold a show next year. No Tools2006. What a total bummer. It's the one half decent show out there, not to mention the only one I'm ever able to get to. It has virtually all the big hand tool players, the big names and gurus, the competitions, and, most importantly of all, the largest number of UK Workshoppers attending and meeting up. What will we do without it? I'm totally gutted.

Then, to add to my cup of happiness, word comes throught from LV that the cambering roller for the honing guide has been put on hold and won't be considered again for six months or so. If at all. Hell's teeth and damnation, it's a perishing conspiracy against a whole section of woodworking humanity, that's what it is. I mean I'm one of the lucky ones; I have one. But what about the would-be cambering thousands out there? Huh? Sheesh, I'm annoyed. How Mike must feel I dread to think; my condolences on a rare (I hope) outing of LV mutton-headedness, Mike.

Now I'm dreading what the third thing's going to be...

Hold fast! That's boring.

So, the goodies. Funny how a sizable chunk of lettuce doesn't seem to come to much - at least, not when it's lying in a heap and not being used. Finally sorted out my lamentable lack of trammel heads, so I fully expect to never require a large circle or arc ever again... The Wonder Pup is for the bench-on-bench which has been on the Tuit List for some time now. Got the wood, got the gadgets, just need to do it. And turn up some vice screws to finally get that wooden tap earning its keep... The straight edge doesn't photograph well, but it's the 38" one and shows that my bench top isn't too bad, but not perfect. Drat. Finally the holdfast. Been wanting one of those off and on for years, but never had the guts to bore the hole in "The Bench". Well the bench-on-bench got me thinking more seriously about getting it, and then after flattening it I looked on "The Bench" as more "the bench" and felt maybe boring a hole or two in it wasn't such sacrilege after all.

So that's what I did this afternoon. I went through all my 3/4" auger bits, and even tried a 13/16" or two, to try and find a suitable fit. All were a trifle snug - or hopelessly sloppy, auger bit sizes being given more in hope than accuracy. In fact the sloppy would have been okay for the holdfast, but no good for the Pup; and I wanted to be able to take that in any holes too, just in case. The undercarriage of the front vice is in the way of where I was going to put the hole, but I think I've got it in an okay spot now. In hindsight maybe I should have lined it up with the existing bench dog hole better... Ach, no matter. As long as it works.

The deed is done, and I'm not actually a total babbling wreck wondering what possessed me, which has to be a good sign... The bit cut a nice clean hole, but marginally too snug. I ran a round file up and down the inside a few times to open it up a bit, then drove the post of the holdfast right through the hole a couple of times. Brutal, but it loosened everything up just enough to make it work smoothly. Then a job for the monserously large snail countersink; just a quick twizzle to ease the edge of the hole for neatness.

Et voila! It works.
And very, very effectively.But don't bother clicking for a larger piccy; the light was poor, and ergo the focus. However, I'm well impressed and might end up hankering after another one if I'm not careful... I expect I'll end up with a few more holes as time goes on, but I will try and refrain from turning the bench top into a Swiss cheese if I can. Trouble is this is all good fun, but not getting done that which I should be getting done. So really I must postpone the bench-on-bench a little longer. Sigh.

And finally a word about introducing character recognition in the comments box. I don't like doing it, but I've had a rash of spam comments which I'm hoping to avoid. Apologies for making life that little bit more tedious than it should have to be though :~( Could be worse; I could have elected to check every comment before it gets posted. Ah, the power...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Old Mother Hubbard

I go, I come back. Sunday's a day of rest; that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it...

Well I'd tell you about the toys wot I got from BriMarc today, but as they say on one forum: no pictures - it didn't happen. So you'll have to wait for that until tomorrow. Meanwhile my comments box tells me Byron is in major workshop making mode; which is probably my favourite form of woodworking, I'm ashamed to say; and wonders about my current tool cabinet. Stop me if you've heard this before.
I started out like a normal person with a normal number of tools, and thus a pretty normal tool cabinet. 18mm ply construction throughout, screwed together; I still use it in two halves even now. But it was small. Far too small. And ply was a bit, well, not as I really desired, so solid wood beckoned next. I'm sure I must have another picture somewhere, but the best I can find is this shot of one half that I turned into a jigsaw. Sheesh, i even let a hardpoint saw into it...

The next one I used solid ash, flat panelled doors, through dovetailed with the 'Rat. The works. Still too small, but looked more the part. Heh heh, just seen I kept the box for my first LN, the side rebate pair, in the cupboard too. Little did I know just how slippery that particular Slope that would become.

Anyway, that became a problem as the tools expanded, so to tide myself over, I used one half of the old cupboard for all my planes. "All" my planes. Oh deary me, what an innocent I was... I think the router plane hung on the door, IIRC. And there's a #4, #4.5, #5, #5.5, #6, #60.5, #073 and #45. As a system for storing them, it wasn't half bad as it happens. If only I could have avoided outgrowing that too. My trouble was I was making them too shallow to avoid them taking up valuable real estate by over hanging the floor. So next step, put them over the bench...
... and eliminate the doors so they don't foul anything large being clamped up on top of the bench. DAMHIKT...

Well that worked really well; easy to get to everything, plenty of room for expansion - well when I started there was anyway, and looks good in photographs ;~) However, it offers absolutely zero protection against the two "usts". Rust 'n' Dust. I also wasn't happy about the chisel storage. Oh it worked all right but the blades were a hazard exposed like that, and they could clatter into each other if you weren't careful - murder on sharp edges. So eventually it got to this point:

Which worked brilliantly. Right up until the point I decided I needed to get round to the back of the bench when working... Oh, and open up the underside of the bench again. So the drawers moved, the bench moved, nearly everything moved. And now everything; ready use tools; infrequent flyers; the lot, is spread all about the workshop. Most of my go-to tools have made it to the haven of the tool chest, but in dribs and drabs so there's no overall plan. In short it's a bit of a nightmare. But not half the nightmare it'd be if I started to do something about it...

So I've done cupboards, drawers, shelves and chests. Is there anything else left to try before I start the whole cycle again? :~)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

S'now go; saw point

So much for the snow in these parts. Virtually all gone already, no staying power at all. And not so much as a snowball thrown by your intrepid reporter. On the other hand it is still a bit nippy, so finding myself still requiring excuses not to be in the workshop I've been doing a little preparatory research instead. This involves staying in the warm and reading. My kind of task :~) Also a spot of birdwatching, similarly from the warmth of my desk. This year I've finally got round to hanging up a "fat ball" for the birds in the Myrtle bush/tree outside the window and it's already proving a popular dining venue for the "Top Flight" feathered diner looking to eat out. Viz: Tits, both Great & Blue (no jokes, please); Robins; House Sparrows and possibly a Greenfinch. Not at all sure about the last one; I didn't have the book open at the right place and the sun was in my eyes. Might just have been a female sparrow... Anyway, I've been looking at more feathered behinds this morning than you'd see in the average musical chorus line; the blighted things will insist on pointing away from me. Humph.

And I forgot to mention yesterday, in reply to the anxious inquiry over whether I've played with, er, tried the LN saw yet; I haven't. As always with virtually every LN tool I've ever bought, I suffer from chronic buyer's remorse followed by a strong desire not to ruin it by actually daring to let it touch wood. It'll pass eventually; it always does. But at the moment it's still in its box, safely housed in the anti-rust stronghold that is The Tool Chest. That's another thing; I haven't really got anywhere to store it safely. What was okay for a restored car boot saw seems rather lacking in facilities for a saw costing, on average, at least 20 times as much... Sheesh, did I not think this through or what? That pesky Tool Cabinet Making Itch is making itself felt again. :~(

Friday, November 25, 2005

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Okay, okay, don't all chunter at me. I've been busy. Woodworking? Well sort of. Not actually making anything though. Playing silly beggars with a certain router plane of Commonwealth origin and writing about twice as much as I intended to about it, I fear. Also wrote up the auger/brace cleaning as threatened, so I'm in a bit of a literary mood at the moment. Just as well, as I have a little non-forum writing to do next - and before anyone asks, no, it's not for a magazine and no cheque will be winging its way chez Alf. But it should be fun though.

Also the auger cleaning bug stayed with me most of last week and this - up until the temperature dropped that is. As you can see from the view to the workshop to your left, taken this afternoon, winter has arrived in a big way here in Cornwall. Playing about with metal and cold water suddenly loses its charm when the thermometer says 0.5°C, funnily enough. I know, I'm a soft southern pansy, "when I were t'lad oop in't The North we went sunbathing when temperature got up to 0°C" etc etc. So shoot me. I like to be warm. :~)

What else have I been doing... Oh yes, gathering together likely items for trying out some hot/hide/scotch/pearl glue (trust me to wait until the temperature drops...) All I need is a little "craftwork", as Woodrat would put it, and the actual glue and I can play to my heart's content. Amazingly the "Home Hardware" in Truro stocks Liberon pearl glue. Not so surprisingly they only had a 1Kg bag, which seemed a lot for someone who isn't sure they'll like it. So an Axminster order is required. Oh deary me, what a terrible shame, how ever will I make up enough of an order to get free delivery, etc, etc... Actually it is a bit of a pain, given that I've just placed my postponed show order with BriMarc. Hmm, so who can I get Crimbo pressies for from APTC? Apart from me, obviously... I'd ask any passing reader (and it's a worry just how many people have confessed to reading this Blog. I thought I was talking to myself...) about one such item, but I have a feeling my nephew reads it too. Which reminds me, a poser for you...

Grandson informs grandparents he won't see them over New Year 'cos he's going back to University directly after Christmas. He says to work for his finals and that. They immediately say cherche la femme and "pull the other one, it has water on from the last shower what I came down in". Apparently doing a lot of walking is also a sure sign of lurve, according to them... Is this a reasonable guess on the part of the grandparents (50 years married, remember), or are they making 2+2=5? I merely mention this in case any of my readership either
a) Wish to confirm this hypothesis, maybe even from experience, but vague opinion will do. I'm not fussy.
b) Wish to utterly refute the allegation in a frantic, embarrassed, and therefore amusing, way...

And you thought I was a nice person. Mwahahahahaahaaaaaaaaa... ]:~>

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Maine event

You know what they say? Tomorrow never comes... Sorry about that, should anyone have been daft enough to be on tenterhooks over the promised posting yesterday.

Before I forget, R had brought along the practically-famous April Fool's 12 arm marking gauge. It's heavy. It would also, in theory, assuming you had a strong enough wrist, work. I'm agog to see what they come up with next year... That's a CAD image of the rear toted low angle block on the left, btw.

So, The Man from Maine. I happened to be hob-nobbing with BB when T finally had a moment between other eager beavers, so I'm afraid he got a bit of a two-pronged attack. I'm not proud that I joined in with the chant of "plough plane, plough plane" when the subject of new tool designs came up. :~) We had a small moan about the slow release of new stuff compared with the churnings out from Canada. T muttered that he opens up his own catalogue and says "Oh, they're doing this page this month" and that rather than LN getting left behind, LV are having to run to catch up. Hmm... Fortunately I had a lapse of memory and didn't mention router planes, medium shoulder planes and so forth ;~) Anyway one hold up is the design team is busy doing other things. Viz: He has to do shows like Axminster. We didn't beat about the bush and advised him to go home right away...

BB's perennial favourite, the #51/#52 shooting board and plane combo, was discussed. Alas I can't help but agree with T's assessment; it'd cost a wad and they simply wouldn't sell enough. I floated my Big Idea that the user provides the base board but the manufacturer supplies an adjustable fence and instructions for fitting etc. I reckon that'd remove half the doubt newbie shooting board users have; just follow the instructions 'cos they must be right if I've spent $X on this fence. Plus an adjustable fence would appeal to the more seasoned shooters. Well it would to me anyway. Of course it'd be breaking new ground a bit for L-N, rather than basing on an existing design, so maybe I should suggest it to R instead.

New stuff on show felt limited at the time, but it seems quite a list now: the medium shoulder, which was pretty, but nothing unexpected; the model maker's block; the dinky and adorable convex sole block plane, which I'd love to be able to find an excu-, er, reason, for getting; and a smaller version of the Tite-Mark, the Mini, which I liked the size of a good deal more than the original. Let's face it, how often d'you need the extra size? The only reservation I have is the fixed-width mortise blades; it does so depend on your chisels being the right size :~(

What's coming up next? Well now I come to think of it, he never said... I'd gathered elsewhere that a router plane was in the offing, but not a word. I dunno, but I get the impression there's a certain amount of consolidation going on and general settling down after the recent expansion.

Also on the L-N stand was DC, who I think was enjoying not being stuck out in the cold all on his own. Once again, as I do every year, I marvelled at just how high his workbench is. I couldn't cope with it, I know I couldn't. Trouble is, not only is it wrong for me for ordinary planing, it's not quite high enough to be as advantageous as I'd like for close work like marking out and so forth.

Meanwhile, remember that brace cleaning I was tackling? Well it's been pretty successful I think. I took lots of pics, so I'll probably write it up for the forum; anything that may rescue a poor negelcted brace in someone's garage has got to be worth the effort, no? I also cleaned up a nice little 5" sweep brace I bought on Saturday, but it's not got such quite spectacular woodwork. Lovely little brace though.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Veritas Brain Dump

As the title suggests, don't expect coherent reporting...

So, my first port of call at the show was the Veritas stand to say "Howdy" to RL. Hailed from behind by C, we discovered we were both headed the same way, and confounding the gender stereotype I was able to lead us there unerringly. As required, mutterings of "Doo-dah" were to be heard, and R presented us with a calendar a piece and the other LV goodies previously mentioned in this Blog. Then the important stuff; what was new. First up the winding sticks. I've never seen anyone look so embarrassed about a product they intend to sell for money as R when he explained about them. As winding sticks go, they're well designed mind you. Extruded aluminium, a ribbed effect at 1/8" spacings to aid sighting and they slide togther for storage. But they are winding sticks, and buying them is just plain daft and R knows it, but if there's a demand, what can you do...? They're not getting the Veritas name; apparently a new brand name to cover such low articles, and things they've designed but are made in the Far East is to be introduced. Alas, a burst of tailed router torture meant I missed the name.

The other interesting thing was a new rear handle for the Low Angle Block. Earlier this year R had mentioned a thought about making a #3 sized bevel-up plane and wondered what I, and presumably others, thought. My reaction was Why? and Doesn't the Low Angle Block with ball tail cover that? Well it seems I wasn't the only one to think that (which gave me a warm glow), and prompted by an enterprising guy who made a regular tote using the ball tail fixings, that's the route they've taken. The prime aim is for sprogs, thus corrupting the next generation in a most effective manner. The best bit of all is the handle is fixed with only one screw, so making alterntive styles is easy peasy - and a kit for same will also be available. As R put it later in his talk; carvers alter their tool handles, turners alter their tool handles, cabinetmakers wax theirs and put them on the shelf. :~D Promoting altering your tools to fit is Veritas' aim, thwarted only by the two tote-bolt design they've got themselves stuck with. My view, not R's btw! ;~)

Also on the cards seems to be an idea to make some high spec planes with a view to their appearance. Once again the tortured router kicked in nearby, so I missed a good deal of the detail. It'll be interesting to see if the R&D boys can do "looks" though... At that point another seeker after a doo-dah hove into view, so I journyed on to other parts of the show.

The other stuff was the R&D talk R gave in the afternoon. I'd be able to write a better report of that if we hadn't had to stand throught the hour+ duration, again with the router from Hell screaming in the background. As it is, I was shifting from foot to foot a good deal in an effort to avoid throwing in the towel and just sitting down on the deck... I learnt that CNC machines cost a fortune but can do wonderous things, getting the first reference face on a casting is the tricky bit, automatic lathes that can run unsupervised for three days actually need checking every 50 or 100 units in case a cutter has chipped and you churn out three days of useless product, and a super-expensive and technical Chinese-made CNC machine has a hand operated windscreen wiper on its window so you can see what's happening inside... Deciding what a new product is made from depends a good deal on how many of them you expect to sell, apparently. Setting up to do castings is expensive, so you need to know you'll recoup the costs. For things you're not sure of, aluminium extrusions are a cost effective route; if it all goes wrong, at worst it's a couple of hundred on the die and you can melt down the aluminium to use again. That naturally has a knock-on effect on the designer. F'rinstance, the skew jig for the Mk2 honing guide is unlikely to be a big seller, so it'll be aluminium extrusion.

The models used in various stages of design were interesting too, and how I wish I'd taken a picture or two... Wood is a popular choice in the early stages, but there's also a machine linked up to the computer that can take a CAD image and build it up from layers of a glue-type stuff. IIRC, this can then be used in the next stage towards final manufacture. I was getting a bit tired by that stage, so the memory is going...

Anyway, I learnt a lot and found myself thinking it was churlish to do anything with a plane but be thankful it was there at all. Not good for the critical reviewer, so I'll do my best to forget it all ASAP!

Tomorrow, the Man from Maine.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tool Pillage

So another year, another show come and gone, another painfully long countdown to the next one! But first, the gloats...

Started out on Wednesday with the aim of having lunch at Topsham; which we did. Then a look round Topsham Quay Anteek Centre, wherein hangs out Old Tools Feel Better. Well they may do, but he does horrible things to saw blades... Anyway, I passed by and looked at the other stalls where a few odds and ends of tools were to be found for the eagle-eyed. Amongst them a wooden side bead was spotted on the radar. Screws in the side jogged my memory, and I identified them as removable slips, rather than a repair. A look at the end revealed it to be solid boxed, made by John Moseley & Son, 55* middle pitch. I was tempted; the sign "30% off everything on this stand" and I was more than just tempted. The sale was made. Just under a fiver, and it's sharp and virtually ready to use! Looking up in British Planemakers when I got home, I found it to date to between1862 and 1880, which is not only older than I thought, but easily the closest I've been able to date any wooden plane I own, which always gives me a buzz. An excellent start to my pillaging raid.

Going on to the hotel, I was able to meet up and exchange the bulk of the saws as arranged. Some was in trade for five (five! Count 'em!) Woodworker Annuals - 1934, '35, '38, '39 and 1940. I already have '36 and '37 so it's getting to be quite a good solid run of them. I could do with '31, '32 and '33 now, to lengthen the run into my earlier copies. Only downside; all but one had had its index removed. Bit of a bummer, but I'm sure I'll cope. Anyway, that bit of high-pressure sales talk also produced some spending money for the 'morrow. Things were looking very good indeed.

Next day was the show itself, and rather more modern tools to drool over. There are about a million things to mention from the various conversations I had, but forgive me if I spin that all out over the coming week. I don't know if i'm just really lucky, but I've yet to meet a woodworker who is anything but nice. Two examples very generously came bearing gifts. Luckily I had sussed the likelihood of that, so I had too :~) BB had made a miniature square by expending infinite care and patience on an old saw blade. 'Tis a thing of beauty, and I shall have to make it a special holder I think; I fear I'll lose it otherwise. I may even be promted to try my first lap dovetail in order to use it... I'm also equipped with delights from a certain Canadian manufacturer, including a mug that should, by rights, be burning me as I sip my tea. Miraculously, it doesn't; I think it's double-walled. Well it did surprise me that a company priding itself on design should apparently have the worst possible design of drinking vessel!

So I was gathering up the goodies left, right and centre, and had only spent 20p on leaving my coat in the cloakroom. Time came round to meet up with the forum folks, although various of them had been popping up all through the morning and saying howdy. One resulted in a swift sale of my "user" dovetail saw in the car park, which left me a little embarrassed in the saw department. From glut to famine in 2 days! The chisel exchange previously arranged also went just fine and it was starting to be unbearable not to have spent any money. I went in search of the sizing tool I'd set my heart on. For a while I thought I was doomed to failure; Henry Taylor didn't have one, neither did Crown, and of course Axminster themselves didn't. I didn't think Ashley Iles would, but I had a quick look in passing. Huzzah! They had a Sorby one; so I swooped and purchased. It's actually a bit disappointing; the swarf wasn't removed before the finish was applied, so I'll probably have to file away some of the finish before I can even use it. Tsk. I knew Sorby weren't what they were, but that's really poor considering it's not that cheap a bit of kit. Anyway, the wallet was out and I was on a roll. I decided to have a look at the Veritas holdfast and wonder if I had the nerve to bore a hole in my bench top yet. Lovely smooth action on the screw, and the clamping force is excellent. Yep, gonna have one of those. As it turned out, it was going to make more sense to order direct from BriMarc after the show, so that's still on, erm, "hold" until next week. In the meantime I can decide if there's anything else I want...

Meanwhile the dovetail saw situation was bugging me. I decided to have a look at the L-N. The only available timber to try it on was far too thick, and I was disappointed in the saw in consequence. Also I managed to look like the most hopeless saw user in the world with DC looking on. D'oh. I beat a hasty retreat and went to have a look at the Thomas Flinn 1776 dovetail saw. Superficially similar to the L-N, it didn't grab me at all. Not least because the handle is significantly larger; great for the blokes, but a nightmare for me. Their bench wasn't helping any; it was wracking like a tea clipper in a gale which makes any saw look like dross. Anyway, that was no good. Bum. I wandered about wondering if I could manage okay with the saws I had until another DT saw should cross my path, but the pull of the L-N stand was great enough to find me back there eventually. And there was a thinner piece of stock. Ah-ha. I had another shot, and it was like a different saw. I know in my head that's as it should be, but I hadn't expected it to feel that different. I was convinced. I bought.

I haven't tried it yet.

I can also confirm it's slightly embarrassing to have manufacturer "A" peering to see what you've bought from manufacturer "B" while at the same time you haven't actually bought anything from manufacturer "A" - yet.

On Friday we wound our way home, via Liskeard and Bob's Tool Box. Naturally he had more dovetail saws than you can shake a big stick at... D'oh! Not cheap though. Very much serious dealer prices, but a heck of a range of stuff. I didn't buy a thing, but the old man fell for a billhook and got a wedge to help deal with some of the more awkward firewood. Bob himself was a bit busy, being in the middle of some reorganisation at the time, so I didn't complicate matters by introducing myself. Worth another visit if we're passing again I think.

So that was it. Back to the ends of the earth for another year, booty safely gathered in, feet worn down to the ankles. Watch this space tomorrow for what was gleaned from the Canadian.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


So today is the first anniversay of this Blog. Huzzah! Apart from missing out one whole month... this is the first diary type thing I've ever managed to keep going for more than a few months. Evidently the "Dear Diary" thing doesn't cut it and I need an audience. What a shameless attention seeker. :~S

Meanwhile I'm so rushed off my feet in getting ready to go up the Exeter tomorrow for the show that I spent the morning cleaning those auger bits. Sometimes my displacement activity-seeking surprises even me...

On a more serious note, a parcel containing some of my paternal grandfather's WWI documents arrived from my aunt this morning. As it's unlikely I'll be posting on Friday, Armistice Day, I thought I'd post this now. Here he is on the left; Lieutenant, later Captain in
the 9th Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment, aka the West Riding, aged about 22 or 23. At some point he won the Military Cross, but I'm not sure exactly how. Amongst the papers are numerous trench maps, photos etc, including the document on the right. It's a resume of their division's operations from August 1918 until the Armistice. Strange to think that the absence of tanks was worded as a matter of pride, rather than one of anger as it would be now. As there's a map of Chapel Hill amongst the papers, I assume HJF was involved in that attack. He went on to become a member of the Indian Civil Service, becoming Chief Secretary of United Provinces and died in 1981. My grandmother's brother, Cuthbert, wasn't so lucky. He joined the Middlesex Regiment in 1914 but was killed in action in September 1918. As far as I'm aware, he's the only member of my family to have died in the armed forces - although plenty have served in them - so, as ever, he'll be uppermost in my thoughts on the 11th. He so very nearly made it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Braced for action

Well it's all go toolwise chez Alf at the moment. Delicate negotiations are on-going vis-a-vis a trade of goods. My part of the deal is this Chapman brace and Irwin pattern bits. But first they have to be cleaned... Actually the bits aren't too bad. Some I've already done, and others came in the baize tool roll in the picture, and have kept remarkably rust-free in consequence. Nope, it's the brace that's going to be the stinker. The ratchet is, inevitably, seized up, but other than that the working parts are all free and, well, working. But there's a coat of rust over everything, and the plating's there in places and peeling off in others. As a preliminary test I've put a small wooden handled screwdriver in the citric acid bath to see how it effects the woodwork - in theory it's apparently okay to put the whole thing in the citric acid, but this is nice hardwood and I don't want to ruin it. Failing that, it's just a question of elbow grease. I've done it before:
On the left, you can just make out the Stanley #901 brace as found in the Tool Chest; below that the result of much elbow grease. Super brace that, and judging by how little I was able to find out about it, not that common. It has the Parker patent ratchet, dates sometime between 1911 and 1935 (but more towards the latter half) and would have set you back a whopping $2.45 in 1914. Stanley's most expensive brace I think. The guy who assembled the tools in that chest seemed to have had a laudable tendency to buy the best tools available, for which I can but thank him.

There, and you thought I was just fixated on planes and saws...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Box o' tools to go

There's only so much guilt I can take before I get prodded into action. Tools for Self Reliance is featured at the Axminster Show this year, and a forum thread about it has finally got me to do something about it instead of just thinking about doing something. 'Cos it's a bit of a way to carry stuff, I limited myself to one carriable box. Anything that wouldn't fit, doesn't go. If I can't carry the box reasonably, something has to go. Looking down their list of what's in shortest supply I had a rummage through my boxes o' rust. It was good fun actually; bit like my own private car boot sale of tools, and only tools. I'm ashamed of how many things I'd forgotten I had to be honest; a whole load of brace bits I'd completely over-looked, chisels, gouges, all sorts. Now I'd happily donate some of those, but I assume the list is indicating to me that they're knee-deep in that sort of thing, so I went for the asked-for goodies. A no-name #4.5, which is a delightful plane to use, but the holes in the sides don't make it a looker; a Salmens block; three folding rules (metric, metric/imperial, and imperial); two mortise chisels, one a good size for furniture but a bit short, the other a gorgeous monster I'll never use; couple of back saws I've yet to get round to cleaning; coping saw; and finally a nice fine grade of oil stone. The hand grinder wouldn't fit in the box!

I had a good chuckle though. Normally my mum doesn't come into the workshop, but just for once
, while I was packing up these goodies, she did. Her eye fell on the folding rules. I'd forgotten she has a major thing for them; not that she uses them, it's the gizmocity factor that gets her. I suppose I had to have got it from someone... Anyway, I was practically prising them from her hands and pointing out the need of poor Africans was greater than her's. I had to repeat it quite a few times before she relinquished them though :~) Not that she's usually like that, but in this case it was a definite struggle. It was hilarious as she went through them; "too short but the brass is nice" "oooo, this one's really long" etc etc Concealed in the workshop I have a large size, 2m one (about 18" long when folded) - if she ever gets hold of that, all is lost...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tap dancing

Result. Holes successfully drilled and tapped in the jointer plane. Yee-hah! Having woken up at 1am this morning worrying about it, I knew I had to grasp the nettle, bite the bullet and generally get on with it. Not helped by the opposite side to the one I was drilling being less than square to the sole of the plane. Grrr. So it was all very dicey wedged up with this 'n' that and not clamped down. Don't try that at home kids... But luckily there was lots of leeway in the whole thing, so all was well. Nearly wasn't though; I marked up the wrong holes first try, so I now have some additional dimples on the plane where dimples should not be. Ho hum. Anyway, I had a bit of a play and so forth and the main thrust of my thoughts are already committed to paper. Just a pause to let it stew a while now.

Also made progress with one of the other LV things, which I suppose I have to not say about yet. No worries; s'no big deal particularly. As it is, it seems fine and I'm struggling to come up with anything to say beyond "Great, I'll take one. Except, er, I already have one now, don't I...?" Well I would have bought one if things had been different, if I'd had the thing it goes with, which I probably wouldn't have I'd have had to buy it... Hmm, I think I'll have to re-draft this whole thing...

I'll leave you with the thought that, while I knew Tool X was a complicated thing with lots of parts, it's not until you see one laid out, with the blades alone taking up a third of the workbench, that you really know it.

Tune in tomorrow when I Blog about how I started a rumour about a Lee Valley Combination Plane. (chuckle)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pile o' Saws to go

Decided that the imminent arrival of stuff from Canada meant I'd better pack up the out-going stuff for next week before it got here. Mainly saws, as you can see! Just a final choice of which dovetail saw of three to go for has to be made; so two will have to come back again. Other than that, the saw rack is a little emptier. :~) Just as well I can hand them over at the Axminster show though; the postage would have been a bit of a 'mare.

Yep, it's that time of year again, when I venture east in search of tool drool. 'Cept the drive to look at the tools is less and less and it becomes more of an excuse to meet up with friends old and new and put names to faces. And flog a few tools... ;~) Well to be fair, if I didn't do that I wouldn't be able to support the new toolmakers, so it's for the long-term good. Although it's very hard to get excited about going to a show to see tools when some turn up on your doorstep the week before. It's horribly ungrateful to say it, but in a tiny way it takes away some of the pleasure of the show. Terrible, isn't it? Bet you're yelling at the screen "what?! Why you stinker; step aside and I'll do it then!" It only does it a little bit; but there is that miniscule regret that I don't get to fight the wondering masses for a look at the new router plane, f'rinstance. Heck, I may loose touch with the feelings of the ordinary woodworker at the bench, and that would never do. So I'll have to fight off the wondering masses at the L-N stand instead; which I'd be doing anyway, no doubt. :~) I'm also hoping one of the turning tool manufacturers will have a sizing wotsit to fit a 3/8th parting tool. I'm getting a bit fed up with my hit 'n' miss method of making chisel handles - and as I have a lot to do it makes sense to bite the bullet. If Axminster still listed one I'd have got it long before now; as it is I never order from places that do have them so it hasn't happened. And of course there's also the competition entries to gasp in wonder at. I'll have a shot at getting to those early, while it's quiet, if I can - just for a change.

Anyway, in the mean time, there's at least one, and really probably two, reviews to write; some feedback to give; and, oh heck, some holes to drill and tap... For a moment there I'd forgotten that horror. Wonder if I'll be able to slip in any real woodworking while no-one's looking...?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Revenoo...

Got a call from UPS; looks like I'm going to be stung big time for the L-V parcel. Bum. Not that I won't be reimbursed, but heck, it's nearly the Axminster show! I may need every shekel! It'd help if they employed folks who could speak clearly; I must have said "can you repeat that?" a dozen times. Repetitiously, you could say...

In the opening salvo of my new attempt to sell some of my tools I'm trying to create some demand for wooden moulding planes. It should work a treat as long as no-one reads this Blog and sees through my cunning plan.

Hmm. Probably shouldn't have linked to it in the same thread then... ;~)

As it happens one or two items are due to get shifted at the show next week, which is good. I can stop feeling guilty about having tools I'm not using and someone else can get hold of reasonable tools at reasonable prices. Shill! Heck, if you can't advertise in your own Blog, where can you? Actually maybe you can't... Where's that TOS...? :~)

Dovetails are on hold; in fact practically everything is. TPTB have got hold of a painting on glass that they fancy being made into a fire screen though, so I may not be making anything but I'm at least thinking about making something.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Well I've assembled my rambling thoughts on the 45° shoot-out, and I ain't posting them. The value to anyone else is negligible bordering on non-existant - the opening for persons to be obnoxious on the other hand, is great. I don't need the hassle, to be honest. But for the purposes of those who care, a summary.

The results from the two were indistinguishable; only the means and time taken to get to that point vary. Which you prefer is up to you.

And yes, you could argue the vociferous minority shouldn't be allowed to dictate what I do, or do not, post, and you'd be right. But life's too short, and I do this for fun, not in order to have my integrity roasted on a spike. Apologies to the Alf-ettes; you're really not missing much.

So just as I start to think I might get into the workshop next week to do some actual woodworking, I get an email from L-V. A whole raft of things, ancient and modern, are due to turn up at Alf Towers some time in that same approaching week. Amongst them, a fence for the BUT (aka Bevel Up Jointer - or Try plane). Now I must confess to wanting to try this and being rather disappointed that it wasn't included with the plane for evaluation. But one hitch; the plane I have never got to the stage of having the holes for the fence drilled and tapped. So I mention this might be a problem. Okay, we'll send you another plane in a coupla weeks when the backlog is cleared. WHAT?! That's crazy. So I opened my big mouth, didn't I? How accurate do these holes need to be? Maybe I could drill and tap them, given my previous? The thread type might be a problem though... So they're sending a suitable drill bit and tap and I'm going to have a go.


I've already got the technical drawing with the relevant measurments - very interesting document that I'm certain I'm not allowed to share with you. Heck of an eye-opener as to what goes into designing a plane though. Even more so if I understood more than 50%...

Dovetail practice was skipped yesterday, I'm ashamed to say. Maybe today. Or then again... For my weekend homework I'm trying to find reasons for having a fence on a router plane. None of mine have one, I've never felt the need for one, and I'm wracking my brains to find a reason for having one. Well that's not strictly true; I could see how the curved variety might be a lifesaver in certain circumstances, but all the straight fence opportunities I can think of would say to me "plough/rebate/dado plane" first. I suppose it's for the benefit of the plane challenged; in which case I can't condone it and it shouldn't be allowed. ;~)

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The dovetail practice regime continues, but first the evidence of yesterday's effort. Go on, click on the pic for the larger size, feast your eyes on the horror - I can take it. Nasty eh? How could I have overshot the line three times?! Dummkopf. That plus the right hand side of the left tail is practicaly dead straight instead of angled, which I hadn't even noticed until now. Not good at all. But despite appearances to the contrary, I was not discouraged. Helped by an inquiry about purchasing a dovetail saw, I had another go today.

Well I'm back to blaming the saw, quite honestly. I used two different saws on this joint, and the results are much better. In fact I think it's the best so far, so that's good. Maybe practice really does make perfect? Perhaps doing all your practice on actual projects isn't such a good idea after all? Who'd have thunked it? ;~) Still got enough wood left for at least one, maybe two more attempts. What I'm going to do with all these short right angle pieces though is another matter...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Beginner's luck

Once more I surprise myself; instead of just saying I must do another practice dovetail joint soon - I actually did!

The fact I wish I hadn't is another matter.

It has not come out as well as the first, and I'm somewhat downcast. Not much, but a bit. Down-ish-cast, if you will. I over shot the gauged line not once, not twice, but - argh - three times! Damn, blast and bugger. :~[ Did better with the saw though, thus confirming my suspicion that it was my ineptness that was the trouble. That is I did better sawing the tail sides sloping to the right, but atrocious results with the cuts sloping to the left. I'm evidently not sinister enough... Anyway, you'll notice I've not taken a picture of the latest one. Erm, I forgot to take the camera down to the workshop. Yeah, that's right. That's what happened...

I've also finally got round to creating a map to go with my list of old tool dealers; it suddenly dawned on me that the current "Frapper" craze was ideal for the job. Here 'tis. It only looks like I live within spitting distance of dozens of rust emporia - it's not really true.

Heigh ho. Better have a shot at this 45 degree thing then - the Alf-ettes have spoken. ;~)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Indecisiveness and Dovetails

Yes, yes, all right. It's been three weeks since my last confession. Deary me. It's not my fault, really it isn't. A combination of not doing any woodwork and a broadband connection that keeps going awol in the evenings - when I usually feel the urge to Blog - is all to blame. But I'll try and make up for it a bit as I have actually been in the workshop in dribs and drabs!

First up I decided to have a go at a 45deg included angle in the BUS, and play with the L-N #4.5 at the same time. I'm absolutely not going to be drawn into calling it a comparison. It's not anything vs anything else. It was just for my own amusement; as witnessed by the "pitstop challenge" I set myself; the detour to do a "Charlesworth" on the L-N's cap iron; and the step-by-step pics of removing a cap iron, just in case it might be helpful to a novice. I did try to apply some scientific parameters at the beginning, but I soon gave that up. It's just not me. So essentially I now have a bundle of odd pictures, some definitely personal conclusions and a long, rambling report buzzing about in my head. The thing is, with the likelihood of some people almost certainly being unable to get their head round the idea that it's not some kind of L-V vs L-N review, I'm not at all sure I'll write it up - regardless of whether it contains anything of any value anyway, which is debatable. On the other hand it'd at least give folks an idea of where I'm coming from if they should be foolish enough to take my advice in future. I dunno. I've been sitting on it all for nearly a fortnight already, and I just can't make up my mind. But if I don't do it soon I'll have forgotten what I did...

Then, somewhat to my horror, I had a sudden desire to do some woodworking - but not too much in case it scared me away again... So I rustled up a couple of bits of the nastiest African Mahogany I've come across (at least I think that's what it is. As usual my habit of buying offcuts and such means I don't actually know), planed 'em up all square, and took a shot at a set of dovetails. It's been, erm, well, too long since I last cut any, but, considering this flippin' wood is a total bear to saw; I haven't sawn anything at all for months; I didn't do any practice cuts first (fool); and I failed to refresh my memory with a quick burst of Rob Cosman before I plunged in (busted VCR), well, I don't think they're too bad. I was hopelessly over-generous in the thickness of the outer pins, which is annoying, but other than that it was the sawing that let me down and left me with two wee gaps. Maybe it's the Knockers*, but a previously sweetly-running saw became a binding, biased nightmare and nearly took a high velocity trip to the opposite wall... The L-N chisels though, were brill. As was BugBear's super-tuned, ultra-sharp cutting gauge. Who needs a stinkin' Tite-Mark? ;~) But all in all, not too bad at all after a long hiatus. All those long years of making really, really bad attempts at dovetailing, when even lots of practice never seemed to help, that counts as a major success to me. All credit has to go to Rob Cosman. Now I know I can get 'em better than that though, and there's still plenty of length left on that mahogany, so if only I can keep up the enthusiasm and have another go before too long, maybe I'll be able to post something better...

Meanwhile the countdown to Tools 2005 continues; not long to go now. Gonna be a busy preview day for me, it seems. If I thought I had a full social diary last year, this one is a total 'mare. I could name-drop like crazy with all the persons who've said "see you at the show then", but I wouldn't do that... Suffice to say if I get to look at a single stand of Normite delights it'll be a miracle, never mind the competition entries. DC is on the L-N stand this year, apparently, and rather than Rob Cosman demonstrating it's the 'Murrican chap they have called Deneb Something-or-other-that-slips-my-mind, so it'll be interesting to see what he's like. I keep thinking I ought to dig out some tools for this Tools for Self Reliance thing, but it's so far away from the entrance, and I'm likely to be a bit loaded down as it is, I'm not sure it's going to happen. :~( Oh well, plenty of time to decide yet.

*Knockers: piskies, sprites etc that live in mines and got the blame for losing tools, accidents etc. With all the mines in Cornwall closed, I'm convinced they've all moved into my workshop instead...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My head goes Thud!

Ack, if there's one thing I hate, it's being ill and then getting some other thing before you've recovered from the last one. Viz: I have meandered slowly from backache, to nausea and now I seem to have an extremely irritating cold. If I lie down to ease my back and/or headache (did I mention the headache?) then my head feels like it's slowly filling with potato soup and I can't breathe. So I sit up, the potato soup flows away a little, I can breathe and, what's this? Well, well, my back and/or head aches and I feel sick. Sometimes I feel sick when I'm lying down too, to be fair. Grrr... Anyway, that's why the Blogging dropped off again; hard to see what to type at the moment (streaming eyes from the cold you see. And you don't want to be in the vicinity when I sneeze; the slates on the roof rattle...)

Anyway, while I've been silent Dickens gave way to the latest Discworld book "Thud!". And very good it is too, almost as good in parts as say "Jingo" or "Small Gods" in holding up a mirror to this world and showing how ridiculous so much of it is. Of course my enjoyment is always going to be greatly helped by it being centered around my favourite character, Sam Vimes. For any Discworld afficianados reading this who may also go in for imaginary casting, how does Ken Stott (Messiah, The Vice etc) strike you as a "Vimes"? Despite being totally wrong in height and shape, I'm sure he'd convey the pent up rage brilliantly. But I digress. Between sneezes, Thud! has got me searching round t'net looking for info on the game of the same name (yes, there is one). Strikes me it'd be damn good fun making a board and carving the pieces (look ma, woodworking content!), but you can't officially get the rules on how to play it without stumping up 30-odd quid for a set - rather removing the impetus to make one. Thanks to Google and some deviousness though, I think I've just about managed to rustle up enough of the gist to play it. Whether I have the nous to play it is another matter... While in Discworld mode (which overtakes me big time on an annual basis, every time a new book is published. Luckily I hadn't started Blogging this time last year), I did the Which Discworld Character Are You? quiz. Alas, and most unlikely too, it seems Captain Carrot is the answer. However at least it's a fairly balanced outcome, with the niceness of Carrot being off-set with a healthy dose of Vimes and a side order of the cowardly Rincewind. Viz:

75% Carrot Ironfounderson

69% Commander Samuel Vimes

56% Rincewind

50% Cohen The Barbarian

50% Gytha (Nanny) Ogg

44% Death

44% Esmerelda (Granny) Weatherwax

44% Lord Havelock Vetinari

44% The Librarian

19% Greebo

The presence of even 19% Greebo is a bit of a worry though...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Grubs in the grub

Sometimes life parcels up strange and unpleasant things to you - often, it seems, to be delivered before breakfast. I went to dole out the usual portions of seed mix for the parrots this morning, but my questing hand was arrested by the sight of a small, but active, white grub desporting itself among the sunflower seeds. I withdrew my hand at speed, as you may imagine. Soon another one was descernable to my wondering eye, albeit the sack is large - 15Kg - and the grubs small - 10mm long, but, as I say, monsterously active. Needless to say I didn't pause to see if they had more friends with them, rather a call was made to the purveyour of said mix and a new batch should be en route as I speak. Honestly, it was most unpleasant, and I didn't have a single drawkife about my person at the time. Note to self: perhaps a good idea to have a drawknife handy in the cutlery drawer for emergencies?

Consequently I decided against museli for breakfast for some reason...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gout flying upwards

Well my last issue of GWW has come, and contrary to the usual run of life, it's not actually one to make me regret letting the sub go. Such a shame when I know the contributors are just as good as they always were - well most of them, anyway. Not sure about that chap in Dorset... ;~) I'm also wondering if it's worth the effort to cancel the F&C sub too; I dunno, it just doesn't grab me at all these days, and to be honest it was borderline as to whether I'd re-subscribe at the time. I don't think it's partly because internet access has eclipsed them; I must have renewed the subs half a dozen times during my time online, after all. And it certainly isn't because I know it all! I suppose I just don't find myself at all inspired by them; no desire to rush out to the workshop and try it for myself. That and about 90% of the articles I'm not even reading once, never mind re-reading. Shockin', ain't it? Meanwhile Popular Woodworking still fails to show and no news of a sub to their sister publication Woodworking becoming available. Terrible situation for a word- and wood-obsessed person to find themselves in. :~( I may find myself trawling Bookfinder for old Woodworker annuals again... Who am I kidding? "May"? Hah!

Meanwhile I'm left to muse on Dickens instead (does anyone every take any notice of the "currently reading/listening etc" stuff in the side bar over to the right there? Or do I delude myself you care? ;~) Unfortunately it never does the modernity of my language any good at all. However, who can fail to be tickled by Flora Finching's explanation of the demise of her husband?

"ere we had yet fully detected the housemaid in selling the feathers out of the spare bed Gout flying upwards soared with Mr F. to another sphere"

Oh okay, so probably you can resist all too well, but it amuses me greatly for some reason. Plus quoting it here has given me an excuse for a really surreal post title... The film of Little Dorrit is recommended BTW; fabulous cast and very atmospheric, no woodworking in it, but you can't expect perfection... Unfortunately it's in two parts, totalling six hours long, so it doesn't get shown much. (Surprise) I suggest an interval for luncheon or a light supper between parts, if you can get hold of it at all. I looked on Amazon and secondhand copies of the videos are going for £25 and £35 each part! Yikes. I won't devulge how I come to have it on video tape, but I'm now in mortal fear of them disintergrating with age and leaving me bereft. Of course it needn't have been so long a film, if only Dickens hadn't been paid by the word in the first place. :~) Talking of which, you'd think I was too from all this whittering, so I must stop.

One last thing; if the lack of cricket is getting you down and you want to hammer the Aussies all over again - or even salvage some pride if you're of antipodean persuasion - can I recommend this? Although if you want to get anything else done at all, best avoid it on the whole... The original is here, including a welcome practice mode. Good thing I didn't know about it earlier in the summer or I might never have finished those tables in time.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Woodworking Brit Blog

Further to my comments here, to my amazement I find a woodworking catergory has appeared! Huzzah. But I'm all alone in it at the moment... Plenty of room for more; I'll squeeze up. :~)

Etching in the acid detail

In the comments below, Byron wonders about detail on the use of citric acid. I'll do my best; that is, it's simply what I did and it probably varies. It all started, as far as I remember, with this information. This was picked up on The Old Tools list, and it sort of grew from there. Just put "citric acid" into The Archive's search under "keyword" and you'll see what I mean... It interested me, and eventually I bought some citric acid to try it. About £1.50 for a little pot from the local Home Hardware - I'm sure there are cheaper places. Put some cold water in the bottom of a cleanish old ice cream box, just enough to cover the tools, spinkled in about, ooo, a heaped tablespoon? And, as I say, a dash of meths and washing-up liquid (Lemon scented, but that's not essential). Gave it a stir and put in the dividers etc.; if you look closely when you do that you can see tiny bubbles appear on the surface of the tool. Make sure the tool for the treatment is grease-free, or it won't work. Guess how I know that - no, not from reading the instructions. Don't be silly... Anyway, I checked them after two hours, then every hour afterwards for the afternoon, before I decided what the hell and left them in overnight. I didn't realise they'd still look the same in the bath regardless of how long they were in, you see. But it was okay and not a disaster. Eventually I thought "this isn't working, stupid thing", fished them out and gave them a scrub with some brown non-woven abrasive (a dish scourer in household terms, Webrax or Scotchbrite in workshop ones!) under the tap in case the acid might do more harm than good. Before my wondering eye the rust and crud just scrubbed off to reveal unto me bare, but slightly dull, metal. Huzzah! How much it dulls, and how long it takes, depends on the concentration I gather. Someone suggested lots of dilute baths might be better to minimise the degree of dullness, while a really concentrated bath might get things done in an hour or two. Whatever, it certainly beats abrasives and white spirit on these finicky tools. I can't recall off-hand what the word was on its effects on paint and japanning, but I have a feeling any loose stuff you can assume you'll lose.

Anyway, that may or may not be of any help, but at least the links with more detail are now recorded in one place when I need them. Oh, and welcome to the Blog, Byron. :~)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Speed and Acid

Bet that title made you look...

Well I finally got round to taking a picture of the various bits I've tried the citric acid on. That is to say, some of them are as a result of that, and others aren't. To my eye it's a little obvious, but still, not too bad really, and at least I can use them now. I really need to have another shot, but being a little more scientific in how much powder I used to the amount of water and so forth. In this case I just put about an inch and a half of water in the bottom of a 4 litre ice cream box, mixed in about "that much" citric acid and one drop each of meths and washing up liquid. The latter two do something or other, but I can't recall what exactly. Heigh ho.

Of course this was my first opportunity to upload piccies using Broadband! Whoohoo! Yep, it all worked. We got the word the line was up and running last Thursday (a day earlier than estimated), but were left waiting for the evil Parcel Farce to deliver the router. D'oh. Anyway it turned up this Wednesday and I had it all set up by the end of the afternoon. T'riffic. Now I just need to remember the load of broadband-y things to look at that I never could before...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Apathy is too much effort

If there's one thing sadder than a woodworker who can't get into their workshop, it must be a woodworker who doesn't want to. Yes, I am that sorry individual. I'm wandering round like a wet weekend and I just can't summon up the impetus to go into the workshop at all. It's awful. I feel so guilty. All those tools ready to leap to my command and butcher some unsuspecting tree meat, so many tuits on the list, so many more wannatryits too, and I just can't be arsed - pardon my Klatchian*. Still, there are 4 or 5 assorted dividers and callipers sitting on the bench, freshly waxed and almost shiny from their citric acid bath, so that's something. Not much, but I'll take what I can get at the moment...

In other news, keep it to yourselves, but an order has been placed with an ISP to provide a broadband service chez Alf. I confidently expect news to come through that we're 2ft 7inches too far away from the exchange for it to work and my hopes will be dashed forever, but you never know it might actually work. If everyone'd just cross all available appendages for the forseeable future I'd be obliged, ta muchly.

*It's a Discworld thing. Read the books and you'll understand. Don't read the books and frankly there's very little hope for you and your sanity making it to the end of your brief sojourn on this planet intact. But that's just my opinion. :~)

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Came across a link to a site called BritBlog that seems to be trying to get together a directory of Blogs written by Brits (how patriotic). Despite the absence of a woodworking catergory, the option on a flag of St Piran as a link to them sucked me in, so I've registered Alf Towers. Apparently silent watchers and/or grey guardians will then check that I am what I claim to be before letting me into the secret order of Brit Bloggers. Or something. The fact I've already put the link to their site to the right there (No, over there. On the right. In the border. Under the picture of the jointer. Well stop drooling at the jointer and look below. See it? Okay then). As I was saying, doing that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that unseen judges will be looking at chez Alf before giving me the nod. Would I be so calculating? Well possibly... Any other patriotic woodworking bloggers out there who want to register? If Cornwall can get it's own flag link with only half a dozen or so Blogs actually in Cornwall, surely we don't need many woodworkers to get a woodworking catergory? ;~)

Acid test

So September is upon us. That's me rushing into the workshop for the new term then... [hollow laughter] Well I am doing a little research into using citric acid for rust removal, which is about all I feel equal to at the moment. It's hardly "all go" round here though. The recovery of my lumbar regions hasn't exactly been helped by having to pick the most ridiculous numbers of runner beans in the old man's veg garden. I mean there's dozens of them; it's crazy. It was fine while I was doing it mind you; listening to "The Lark Ascending" in the evening sun, Swallows twittering away in the distance, a Buzzard mewing over my head, lovely way to while away an hour or two. Only when I'd finished did I wonder if I'd been totally wise, especially picking the "Red Rums" which crop right from the bottom of the plant. This morning I knew it was a mistake. Ouchhhhhhhhhhhh. So today I will just hobble gingerly between the one day cricket final at Lords on the telly and the workshop every couple of hours, and gaze at the spring dividers lying in the citric-y depths. Sounds better if I rephrase it to "I spent my Saturday cleaning up rusty tools" though, doesn't it? ;~)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Testing times

So last Bank Holiday before Crimbo then; winter approaches, dammit. I'd like to report 3 solid days of workshop toil, but alas, no joy. My back is still hors de combat for all practical purposes. I did manage to dig out most of the Oak I have skulling about, with a view to Christmas, by dint of moving one (small) piece at a time to the bench very gingerly, but the news is not good. I probably have enough cubic footage to do a brace of pairs, but because it's all short lengths I got free, gratis and for nothing there's insufficient lengths. So, Plan B. (You have a Plan B? I hear you gasp. I know, I surprise myself) I think there may be enough to do two oblong, more "trough-y" planters instead. Not quite as impressive as I'd hoped, but the gardening experts in the house claim they'd be more practical and useful anyway. Hmm... Of course it's all academic if me Cilla* keeps playing up.

So no workshop time then, so you expect I've been putting some work into the website instead eh? Er, nope. I've, erm, been aging at the rate of one annum per diem whilst watching the cricket instead. Hopefully enough fingernails will have grown back by the 8th to have something to chew on for the final test at The Oval - I can't believe that'll be anything but a tense finish either, unless it rains. I'm not a recent convert you understand, but a proper cricket fan who's watched right through all the dark days when England couldn't even win the toss, but even so I have a sneaking hope it'll rain solidly for those five days, even if they are the last cricket on proper telly we'll see maybe ever... To recover from the cricket I've been indulging in a bit of a DVD fest, including a profile of Sam Maloof courtesy of an Alf-ette. I admit I approached it without that much enthusiasm, but in the end I enjoyed it a good deal. It'd drive me mad making everything curvy like that (doesn't he ever long to make something with square edges and sharp corners?!) but it was fascinating to watch how he does it. The way he manipulates wood through the bandsaw is a safety nightmare, but he's damn good at it. Mind you, I was a mass of jealousy as he casually went through a pile of walnut picking out likely matching pieces. Sigh. Glad to have seen it though; not something I'd have ever thought about buying.

*Cilla Black - Back. But it's not a lorra, lorra laffs...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Back again

Okay, don't ask. I'm not letting the Blog slip, really I'm not. It's just I simply haven't been in the workshop to speak of, so I have very little to say.

Who's that cheering at the back...?

And talking of backs, that's half the trouble. My intermittent lumbago has put in an appearance, which has rather put a spanner in the works. Why does "lumbago" sound better than "back ache" I wonder? Anyway, I've been using the little grey cells instead, and plotting the best way to turn what wood I have in to Christmas presents for my nearest and dearest. Well the family anyway... ;-) You see, if I can make stuff rather than buy it, my buying arm is immeasurably strengthened come the Axminster Show in November. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, I either hand craft Christmas presents or my buying arm is non-existant come November, and where's the fun in that...? So my current plan is garden planters, not wholely dissimilar to the plan on UK Workshop. 'Cept I'm hoping I have enough oak skulling about to produce two pairs, which maybe a bridge too far. I won't know until I've dug out the oak and had a measure up, which I can't do until the back eases up a tad. No worries though, I hear you cry, plenty of time until Christmas. Ah, no. You see one brother is coming down at the beginning of October from rural Kent, and it'd be handy to have them ready to go by then. And you know my rate of project progress... So once again I'm looking at a project with limited materials and a tight-ish schedule. Arrrghhhhhh... I must be mad.

In other news, I managed to haul myself around the car boot sale last Sunday and came back with 10m of decent canvas for £2. I've long harboured a desire to make something with a tambour, and now I have the canvas to do so. Now I just need the time, timber and skill... Oh, and a glue pot. I notice Tage Frid (RIP) swore by hide glue for gluing canvas onto tambour slats and who am I to argue? Well I may yet argue depending on whether I ever get round to trying hide glue. It's been on the "To Try" list longer than the tambours...