Monday, May 23, 2005

Scrub that

Well that's the Scrub Plane review up. I can't say that I like it when I find myself less than thrilled with a tool; it's very hard to get the balance right to convey why I don't like it, while still making it clear it works just fine and dandy and it's just my opinion. Previously I've failed dismally, but I hope I've struck the right balance this time. It's a trifle awkward though - I'd have liked to let LV know it was up, but R is away until later this week, and the chap who wrote a charming explanatory letter that came in the parcel neglected to inclued his email address. I hope they'll understand, both my apparent lack of civility and the fact I don't much like the plane. Oh well. If I start down the path of not telling it as I find it, then my reviews are pretty worthless so I might as well not bother at all. There's a thread on WoodCentral that goes into the rights and wrongs of reviews, particularly ones of products sent to reviewers before general release, brought on by D's early review/thoughts on the honing guide. Certainly it does bother me a little. Not so much because I don't think I can remain unbiased, but more because I like to write a review such as I believe anyone buying the tool would write. This is like this, this is like that, my opinion is, and so forth. Not having the whole package disrupts that a little, as well as putting me in the position of writing for two very different types of reader - the woodworker in the street, and the R&D department of Veritas. And heaven knows, I'm in no position to give a technical opinion on anything...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tree hugging

I found myself in the garden this evening. A gentle breeze, sunshine, cats lazing about enjoying the unaccustomed company and so forth. Gosh, how I do like the month of May. As is my wont on such occasions, I went to enjoy the beauties of "my" Eucalyptus. I bought it in February 1998; a 2' high (maybe not even that) little example of eucalyptus pavifolia. It's now about 20' high? With a trunk easily 12" across. I can swing off one of its branches and it barely sags, and I'm what my mum euphemistically calls "well built". Last year I was thinking the same branch would make good propulsion for a pole lathe, but now it's far too sturdy for such a task. Does its rapid rate of growth bother me? Nope; it seems to have hit the subsoil and it ain't getting any higher, which is the one worry I had. But it gives me a tremendous buzz to see "my" tree. And it really is a tree. You could just about plank the trunk now, if you cut it down. It casts a serious, but dappled, shadow across the grass. Under its protection pulmonarias, azeleas, and herbacious geraniums flourish. Sparrows, various tits, robins, blackbirds and goldfinches alight on its branches. Great chunks of bark have peeled from it, which looks beautiful and provides raw material for my mum's flower arangements. The parrots have played with some prunings from it. I feel like it's really contributed to the world. And one day, when the time is right, I hope it'll live on as something joined or turned. I planted a tree, and it grew and grew, and I'm more chuffed about it than I could ever have imagined. Maybe you can tell? :~)

Earlier this year my folks made a contribution to the Royal Society of Arts woodland planting scheme. It's to celebrate some anniversary or something. Anyway, they "bought" five trees; one for each of their descendants. Me, my two brothers and my two nephews. Just imagine if all those five could achieve even half what my one, albeit alien, tree has done. Marvellous. I just hope they'll be allowed to cut them down for timber before they rot, when the time comes...

On a similar theme, if I remember correctly, some patriotic citizen or other (maybe more than one) went round with a pocketful of acorns and whenever he saw a likely spot, he planted one. The idea was to provide the raw materials for the "Hearts of Oak" to defend the nation in the future, long before the idea of steel ship hulls was thought of. What a forward-thinking fellow. I seem to recall somewhere reading that someone planted coppices all over the place to represent the postitions of the fleet at Trafalgar too, but I've never been able to track down the reference again. I believe there's a move to plant a host of oaks to commorate the bicentennial of Trafalgar this year. All I ask is that the lucky future generations are allowed to reap the rewards of mature timber, and not doomed to see them rot where they stand in the name of conservation. Trees can live forever, as long as you don't want them to live forever as trees.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

It's That Man Again

Ah yes, the hedgerows are all a'bloom with bluebells, campion, buttercups, that white fluffy stuff I can never remember the name of, and other wild flowery things, so it must be that time of year again. The UPS man has cometh, bearing review fodder from the Colonies. Before they've hit the website/catalogue. Cooo, fancy, eh? Just a little daunting too. The items in question are both rather on the boundaries of where I feel comfortable in my knowledge, so already I feel the "I'm just a simple woodworker" review defence coming on... ;~)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A bone it its mouth...

The shave; 'tis done. Read all about it if you want to. Wish I hadn't made such a mess of shaping one of the handles though. Heigh ho. That's what comes of rushing it. IIRC, the phrase "a bone in her mouth" refers to the white bow wave of a sailing ship going at full tilt in a good wind. Let's hope this'll go full tilt through any shaving tasks I chuck at it, eh?

Now I suppose the cherry beckons again. Picking out the nicest boards for the table tops and jointing them up. Actually a job I rather enjoy, so no hardship there. It's the final stock dimensioning first that I don't relish... and I really must finish the working drawings! =8~O

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Dem bones, dem bones, dem...

.. dry bones.

Quite why it should come as a surprise to me, I don't know, but bone is hard. And dusty. And smelly. Unfortunately the smell makes me feel a little nauseaous, which adds an extra dimension of difficulty I hadn't anticipated. Never mind, progress is being made - slowly; and it files and sands like a really good, tight-grained hardwood. The bone "plate" is now glued in with epoxy and I'll leave it to set overnight. After that a certain amount of shaping of the sole is going to be required, and I feel cheating and using a belt sander coming on. Did I mention how hard bone is? Well it is. And the old Eclipse hacksaw let me down repeatedly while I was trying to saw it so the cut was all over the place. Its days are numbered...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Strip it and blast it

A thread on Woodnet about how "restored" a restored plane should be seems to be hotting up nicely. Rather to my horror I find myself agreeing with Todd Hughes, which is a bit of a worry... The idea of making an old plane that's earnt its wrinkles look newer than an LN or Veritas just seems, well, wrong. You can see what I mean by looking at this page, with both restored "old" and new planes photographed by the same person. You may need tinted glasses to protect your eyes from the glare... As for stripping off the finish and refinishing with x, y or z regardless; why? Does it make it work any better? Of course all that doesn't really matter one jot; after they're all their tools and the usual run of Stanleys are hardly valuable. What really bothers me is the whole "strip it and blast it" mentality seems to be getting greater coverage than a more sensitive approach, and it's only a matter of time before someone who knows zip does it to something valuable. Oh well, I'll just have to hope I never hear about it. What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wanted: An intercostal clavicle

Well I don't see that I can keep up this pace for much longer, but, yep, I've been in the workshop again! Ran a couple of the walnut boards through the P/T; not for any particular project, just to have them ready to go when the mood strikes. I dunno. Call myself a neander? All this planer thicknesser stuff. 'Tis shameful... Anyway, one of them was pretty sappy, and one end was more than a bit waney on the edge, so I lopped that off, trimmed it up, planed it square with the #5 1/2 (gotta love that plane, with its carbon steel Hock blade...) and had another shot at the spokeshave. In connection with that, I wonder if you can guess what the wotsit below is for?

Just for the novelty, the holes were in the right place and everything, so I'm all set for the big departure from the instructions when I try out a round sole. Just waiting on getting some bone now, and then I can really mess it up... Also got round to putting a higher angle on the spare shoulder plane blade, but I've not really had a chance to test it yet so I need to get round to that at some point. Tsk, the life of a research woodworker is all go, ain't it? :~)

In case you're wondering, "intercostal clavicle" is a reference to the film "Bringing Up Baby". A good deal of the film is spent with Cary Grant's character going round looking for it (to complete his Brontosaurus skeleton), muttering "My bone? Where's my bone?" etc etc. As I'm also held up by the lack of a bone, it seemed appropriate. You'd probably have to have seen the film before you laugh, but it's worth it. The great screwball comedy of the '30s.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cherry ripe, take two

Finally got round to tackling the 6m of 1" cherry boards and do some initial stock prep. I looked at them from all angles for the best figure and so forth, but it helpfully worked out that it was just as effective to chop them all in half before machining as anything; so I did. One was pretty warped, and covered in globs of the paint used to seal the ends, so to clean up the worst I used the scrub in anger for the first time. My goodness, but that plane takes off a lot of wood in a hurry.

I also took pics of dashing round the P/T feeding the boards in and out; terribly boring stuff that no-one ever bothers to take pictures of. That and the progress of a board after each pass over the planer. I dunno; they might be helpful or whatever for anyone who's not familiar with the P/T maybe? I know it was the mundane stuff that always puzzled me when I was very new to woodworking. Anyway, click on the pic if you want to see it all so far, or you need a quick cure for insomnia...

In other news, I managed to foul up the drilling of the blade post holes for the spokeshave kit that's gonna get a curved sole. Must have been all of 0.5mm out... Grrrr. I wouldn't mind if it wasn't for the fact I took so much trouble over them to get it right. So I need to dig out another likely blank. Sigh. I suppose it is worth it...?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Get Stuffed!

Over the weekend I ran across a passing mention of "stuffing" a Starrett double square, so having only a limited (clean) time in the workshop, I thought I'd have a go at doing something similar with my Axminster knock-off one. I used a scrap of what-might-be-Bocote and about a zillion tools for this "simple" job. Off the top of my head, the kit required included:

6" rule
marking knife
X-cut backsaw
low angle smoother
shooting board
bevel up jack with high angle blade
out cannel gouge
in cannel gouge
1/4" chisel
1/8" chisel
20 miles of masking tape (only a tiny exaggeration, I'm sure)

And, naturally, it took a lot longer than I thought; even now it's not as good a fit as I'd thought I'd got. Still it makes it look more like a woodworker's tool and less like an engineer's one, and with the brass knob that I swapped out from another square, overall I'm quite pleased with it. Different from the others "off the shelf" any how.

So while I was in tool customisation mode, I thought I'd take another crack at tweaking the Mk2 rear tote on the BUPP*. Again a ridiculous number of tools and minutes were used on such a "simple" task; shave, rasp, two different sizes of drum sander, hand sanding, wiped on shellac. Only when I've used it for a while will I know if it's any better, but I'm hopeful it'll help a little. The trouble is I think it's just too large front to back, and with the two bolts to accommodate there's very little I can do. Heigh ho. The colour's bugging me too; it's miles different from the front knob. Different source for the Bubinga since the knob was made I guess, but I'm sure I can do something about it.

*Bevel Up Panel Plane. Low Angle Jack if you must...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Avoiding Foot In Mouth disease

Oh lor, but I'm so bored. I'm having to keep clean and tidy to do the Dutiful Niece impression for my uncle and aunt (newly arrived from Canada for a visit) so I can't go in the workshop. Hell and damnation. And before you ask, no, that isn't the Canadian Connection that explains the whole review thing; we go for years between hearing from my uncle J until he suddenly announces he's descending on us again. I mean it's not like he's not a nice chap, 'cos he is. But he's the absent-minded professor incarnate, and he talks. Seemingly without end. He's one of the previously mentioned Ministers in my ancestry and I bet his sermons were long... The whole thing is rather complicated this time by the fact his previous wife passed away a few years ago, and he's remarried and this is the first time we've met her. She's from the West Indies (Jamacia, no she went of her own.. Oh, never mind) and a vegetarian. Now I have nothing against vegetarians, but, well, we're very definitely meat eaters, so it's difficult. Especially for the Old Man, who would skip the veg given the chance. Apparently he's already endured a description of a soya "sirloin" sprinkled with "beef soup powder" that's turned him visibly pale. Poor fellow. Me, I like vegetables and complain if the veg to meat ration is too much in favour of the latter, but even so, it's tricky. Fish is no good either, which is a bummer, especially given our location. But of course the real worry I have is that I'll say something which is, erm, "unfortunate". Let me be quite clear on this; a rascist I am not. But you know how it is when you're trying not to say something in case it's misconstrued? Your tongue seems to leap to exactly the wrong phrase with alarming alacrity. It's like if you're talking to someone with, say, terrible acne. Suddenly you find you're asking if they spotted the difference. Or someone with a large nose is wondering what to say 'cos you've just asked if they had a good nose around the garden they just visited. It's a linguistic minefield! Oh well, I just hope we all avoid hurting her feelings, that's all.

Still, on the plus side, the parrots now have sparkling clean cages again. Gotta love pressure washers; not a physically demanding job and yet it has a sort of mindless satisfaction associated with the result. Took me all of 1hr 20mins to do the two cages mind you. And all of 10 seconds for PJ to "christen" them. Woodworking connection? Erm, I'd quite like to pinch the apple wood branches that serve as perches. They must be beautifully seasoned by now...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Arboreal Rhapsody

Wandering through past posts on UK Workshop this afternoon* I stumbled across one of Morrisminordriver Mike's literary endeavours. The poet laureate of the forum really. Just so I wouldn't lose it again, I thought I'd reproduce it here. Hope he won't mind... Bohemian Rhapsody is the song, and you really need to sing it to get the full effect.

Is this just woodwork
Or is it car – pen - try
Cab-in-et ma-king
Furn - iture artistry
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and seeeeee
Im just a poor boy, new tools are luxury
And so its second hand not second rate
Cheapo tools are my fate
Jumble sales and boot fairs, doesnt really matter to me
To me

(wafty piano piece as a link to second verse…)

Charley, just cut some wood
On the bench I put a length
Pulled my saw with all my strength
Charley, the teeth were bent
And now Ive gotta sand the marks away
Charley, oooh ooh o0hh ooh
Any chance that I could buy
A Lie Neilsen when I go out tomorrow
Credit card, credit card – my bank account’s in tatters

(another wafty piano piece which links to verse 3…)

Too late, my moneys gone
An eBay purchase made
The price has now been paid
Goodbye everybody – Ive got to go
Gotta go down to the shed and face the rust
Charley – oooh ooh oh oooh
The wire wool is required
To clean the pitted metal and restore
Carry on, carry on – I think this really matters

(spirited up tempo ensemble piece which links to staccato verse…)

I see a mitre box sitting by the plane
Aragorn, Aragorn don’t you play with that dado
Mortise – tenon tightening, dovetails are exciting me!
‘Galoot’eo, ‘Galoot’eo
‘Galoot’eo’, ‘Galoot’eo
‘Galoot’eo – Alf ie oh ……- Oh Alf ie Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh

(staccato feel maintained to next piece...)

I prefer handtools, more than machinery
He’d like a No 8 more than a planer
Spare him the tools full of ‘lectricity
Easy come, easy go – will you let me go
Axminster ! No – we will not let him go (let him go)
Axminster ! – He should come to the Show (to the show)
Axminster - ! – the catalogue is so…
the catalogue is so…
the catalogue is so…
Quite brillio – o- o - oh
Mama mia,mama mia,mama mia let me go-
Norm A – ba – ram has a Delta put aside for me, for me , for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

(Cue Philly – and any other UKWrs who play guitar - on air guitar – this is the really big bit – every can join in and go ……… “der der der der deh – der der der derdy - der deh - der der der derdy etc etc”)

So you think you can fettle better than I……
You’d better read Charlesworth’ if you’re gonna try – ee - i!
Oh baby – oil your stone up now baby
If yours is gonna be – yes yours is gonna be sharper than mine

(Loud ensemble free for all, slows and moves to piano and voice …)

Shiny tools don’t matter…
Any one can see…
Rusty ones can clean up, with some elbow grease and em – er - yyyyyyyyyyy

(slow delicate piano phrase ending with quiet ensemble voices..)

Any way the vac blows……………

(Cue riotous applause and continual requests for encores…)

Cue riotus applause indeed. A masterpiece. Amazing what a chap can come up with when he's got a night time feed to administer to his potential Galoot In Training. :~)

*Hey, it's a Friday. What d'you expect but timewasting?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Gone critical

'stordinary, the behaviour of some folks. Someone seems to have actually gone through my website gallery and taken the trouble to give zero rating votes (aka "rubbish") on virtually everything. Actually it may be on everything, but unlike this mystery critic I gave up bothering to go through them all to find out. Why?! I mean they're entitled to think it's all a load of tosh, in fact I applaud their taste to some extent, but why take all that time and effort to bother to do so? Sheesh, after the first 4 or 5 they must have realised the general trend of the content! After 20 or so you'd have thought they'd have gone out to find a life sooner than continue. One can only conclude whoever "they" may be just likes maliciously saying everything's "rubbish"; whether as a general world view or a comment on my own little corner of the web, who can say? If it's personal, I'm actually rather pleased; fancy someone taking all that trouble over me :~) Anyway, if you're out there Mr (or Ms) Rubbish, feel free to use the comments box on the Blog here to explain yourself. Otherwise I have no choice but to assume you're an obsessive stalker and shall have to consider myself a celeb...

Personally I'm surprised anyone ever bothers to register a vote at all. Which is a strangely apposite thought, given the election today. Oh how I wish they'd put in a "none of the above" box for me to tick, or cross, or whatever. I was almost tempted to go to the Polling Station, get myself crossed off the list and then leave, on the basis that at least I couldn't be charged with apathy. After all, I had bothered to turn up. Then I wondered about drawing in my own "none of the etc" box and putting a cross, but spoiling ballot papers seems, well, wrong. People die for the right to vote, for heaven's sakes. So I did something that felt much worse; I voted tactically. Sigh. Oh well, with luck we might get a full five year break before the next one.

But back to the gallery for a moment (bit of a Vision On moment there). I've been tidying it up and so forth, and in an idle moment, looked at the "Most Viewed". What get's the prize? Is it groups of luscious hand tools? My lonely coffee table in the project section? (Yes, I have made more than that, thank you very much; I just haven't got the pics up yet). The handmade planes? Well they come close, but no. It's the Workshop. What is it with woodworkers and their love of looking round other peoples' workshops? I'm the same myself. So just as well I've finally got the all new workshop tour up, on proper pages to boot. Next job is doing the same for the coffee table. Urgh. Html code hell.

Never mind eh? The sun is shining. Summer is a'comin' and the humidity in the w'shop is down to, er, what?!
36%. Oh heck. I think that's a trifle too dry. You just can't win.