Thursday, June 30, 2005

Do mistakes always happen?

I admit it; I've got woodworker's block again. The next step is to taper the legs of those small, but pesky side tables, and I'm putting it off. I don't know why really; how hard can it be? But nevertheless, there it is - blockage. Ho-hum. Maybe at the weekend I'll suddenly feel moved to get on with it? Also I need to work out my plan of attack vis-a-vis buttons to hold the tops on. It's been ages since I've done them. Truth is there's all too many things in this apparently simple project that I either have never done (tapered legs, basic stretcher into square leg stuff - would you believe it? It's true though, it's never come up before) or haven't done for a long time, like the buttons. That's the trouble with a project strike rate slightly slower than a sloth in thick treacle... It's also worrying me that - so far - there hasn't been a mistake. Yes, I cut the tenon upside down and fence of the Lewin wandered away while I was beading, but it all happened on the test pieces, which is what they're there for. So at some point there's bound to be a cock-up, and the longer it goes before that happens, the greater a disaster it has the potential to be. Unless... No, it's not likely. But, well, maybe this is the big breakthrough moment when the amount of woodworking I get right first time outweighs all the stuff that, well, wasn't...


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Publish and be damned

Well the issue of integrity in reviews has raised its ugly head again on WoodCentral. I will try not to rant, but feel free to move on. The gist seems to be that if you're allowed to keep the tool you review you can't possibly be going to do anything but give a favourable review in order to ensure the flow of "freebies" doesn't dry up. Much to my amusement one person commented along the lines of why else would anyone take all that effort if it wasn't to get free tools? Erm, right, yep... Anyway, I thought my non-reviewing readers might be interested in what's involved:

So what happens. Well I get an email saying such-and-such should be with you sometime; that could mean 3 days or a month, depending. Once it turns up, I hope there hasn't been a mix-up on who's paying the duty, and take delivery. First step, unpack, see what's there, read any additional info that might be enclosed and check everything's present and correct. Next, email L-V to say it's safely arrived and I'll let them know how I get on as soon as possible. Because of the demands of forum members, I try to get the reviews done within a week of arrival now so L-V tend to expect quick turnaround too I fear. D'oh! If it's the weekend I can devote the whole two days to it solidly, but otherwise I try to juggle real life round to give me some solid 2 hour chunks of workshop time in the afternoon - when the natural light in the workshop is good for the photographs. Reviewing in the summer is much easier in this respect!

Once in the workshop I unpack and take the initial shot of the assembled plane as is. Then dismantle it and clean all the anti-rust off and take the "parts" shots, also taking comparative shots with a tool I already have if appropriate. Any particular feature or problems will get close-ups, which usually need 3 or four attempts to get right. About half way through that my 16Mb memory card is used up, so I dismantle the camera from the tripod and swap for my other one. I know, get a bigger card. Finances, my friends. Finances. :~( Before I go any further with the tool, I then upload all the pics so far to the computer and check through to see I have all the technical/glamour shots I want. This is in case it should get dinged when I come to use it. I give the review its own folder and put the text file in there too. Next it's a case of running over the tool checking the measurements, weighing it etc, and remembering to write it all down! Then, assuming it's a plane, I'll sharpen the blade or blades and take notes on blade condition, if it took a long time, flatness of the back and so forth. Perhaps take a picture if necessary. Only then do I get to use it; having checked the adjustments, tried to get a rough idea of how much backlash in the depth adjuster, fiddled with the set screws etc etc. Further pictures of the tool in use, the results, more close-ups of wood texture or bevel condition or whathaveyou. Oh, I forgot about gathering together various timbers to test on, or blades to sharpen. Usually that's the equivalent of a weekend's work.

Meanwhile I'm thinking about the tool all the time even when I'm not in the workshop; what things have struck me about it, how I'm going to word such-and-such. Often I also need to check a fact or two, either with L-V or in my books/on-line. Then I like to leave the tool for a day and come back to it with a fresh eye. Use it some more, check what I thought I was going to say is still correct. At that point I can start to write the review.

That sort of evolves in tandem with choosing, editing and renaming the images; trying to see where a picture would help the explanation and where the text should help explain the picture. Often I find I have to nip down to the workshop and take another shot... Generally the pictures I'll use get set in stone a lot quicker than the text, so I can upload them to the 'net. This takes a while on the dial-up connection, so in the meantime I gather any urls I'll need for instructions or product pages and insert them in the text. Once the pics are uploaded and sorted into the right album, I then need to gather their urls, both main image and thumbnail, and insert them in the text too. Then I go away and forget about it until the next day, when I re-read and start tweaking the wording. (And people have claimed it comes naturally!). At this point I decide if I need to say anything additional to L-V via email, but so far, when I've done a review, that's included anything of relevance to them anyway.

At some point, and it can vary depending on how well things have gone, I'll copy it up into the forum post message window, hit "preview" and hope I've not fouled up the image codes. That has happened more than once and it's a real pain. Somehow I find most of my editing easier once I see it in forum conditions, so I can spend an hour and more tweaking, previewing, tweaking some more, preview, etc. All the time saving every change back to the master text file in case something crashes. This is also when I insert smilies and check the thumbnails link to the correct large image.

After a good deal of this I'm sick of the sight of the thing and hit submit, and it's out there in the real world. I then email L-V with the link to say it's up and a brief resume of my thoughts if necessary. Then I wait, a nervous wreck, until I get the first feedback. Either on the forum or from L-V; the former more important than the latter, to be honest. Generally it's in case I've made some huge, glaring error - which I have before now. If there's a problem then a couple of days of stressing over it ensue. If the reception is good and especially if, wonder of wonders, I've actually spotted something that has a bearing on the future of that tool, then I can log off happily and get a large drink.

And yes, you're not the only one wondering why I don't just buy the damn plane... :~)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Picture Post

So, didn't believe me I suppose? Well ya-boo; we have piccies. Rather than link to the album page as usual I thought I'd go straight to the first new pic, and you can creep up on the dry-fit picture all gradual like. What a showman, eh? You might notice image 052.jpg is missing; for some reason I forgot a completed-tenon-just-about-to-be-inserted-into-mortise-with-precise
-pistonlike-fit shot, so I'll remedy that when I finish off the remaining four stretchers.

Edit: All present and correct now, plus two more thus fouling up my numbering system. D'oh.

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

Bet you think I'm letting things slip again, eh? Well you'd have a point. Not that I didn't get anything done yesterday, but I've simply not got round to putting up the pics yet. Took me a while to recover from the 100+ temperatures in the workshop. Have you tried woodworking in a Turkish Bath? Must be very similar... Still, the #140 came into its own in trimming the tenons very nicely, which must be a record turnaround in terms of buying a tool for a particular job and then actually using it for same. Although I'm having one or two niggles with getting the tightness of the lever cap just so, which caused a certain amount of gnashing of teeth. But it's probably just the usual familiarising period I have with every new tool. I also tried out Woodrat's method of cutting tenons using the stop, aluminium guide rails and -technology run amok- a block of wood. Somewhat to my amazement, it works! Could be beginner's luck of course, but it was actually very quick and straightforward. What? From Woodrat? C'est ne pas possible! But yes, it is. I cut the basic shoulders on the 16 tenons in 15mins, once I'd got the set-up right... I'm actually quite enjoying this first shallow paddle in the world of batch production, despite my natural tendency to never make the same thing twice. Of course it's a killer as far as major hand tool use is concerned, but I can still slip in the old neander powered techniques for the final fit and finishing. Anyway, half the tenons are fitted and the other half are a third of the way there, so I had enough for a quick dry fit of one table to see how things are looking. I will get the pics up later today - promise.

In other news, after extensive research I've finally whacked down some cold, hard cash on three 5mg syringes of diamond paste - 45, 15 and 0.5 micron, based on those stocked by Joel at Tools for Working Wood. I was sorely tempted by this but I mean really, how good can they be for that price? So I went to Holts instead. I'll let you know how I get on... Also shock news as I discover another reader! =8~O And here I was confident in the thought that I was just talking to myself...

Finally a small rant. With the biggest Fleet Review since 1977 going on in The Solent, was it really too much to ask the BBC to let Wimbledon suffer with just one channel for today? It's no wonder people have trouble with being patriotic when even the national broadcaster can't see where its loyalties should lie. I won't start on their inability to get hold of anyone who could identify any of the ships. Anyway, good luck to the blue fleet in the battle tonight. Or should that be the red fleet...? If you don't want to know the result, look away now:
(We won)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sore and saw

Sorry, no Blogging yesterday. I was lying in an exhausted heap having planed up the top/s of the tables. I didn't feel quite equal to the task of cutting the tenons in the stretchers, and bitter experience has shown if i don't feel set to do something, best not to do it. So instead I was up to my knees in shavings of one sort or another, blessing the wax on the plane soles, and generally having a ball. Not so very long ago I wouldn't have been able to even attempt this, never mind succeed, so embryonic neanderthals take heart! It'll all click in the end and you too can bore people to death by showing them your shavings collection...

I was also hampered in my typing by a parrot with a very urgent need to be on my knee and have his head scratched. Poor fellow; there's a whole heap of new feathers coming through on the back of his neck and you can just tell the itchiness is driving him crazy. I tried repeatedly prising him off and suggesting he might like a bath instead, but he was having none of it, so I gave up. Lengthy preening ensued, halted only by the other parrot getting jealous and taking a bite out of my finger. Now that really does hamper the typing... [Ouch]

Then this morning I pottered of to a car boot sale and - wait for it - found something! A roll of auger bits in excellent condition (for which I paid too much), and a Disston D8 26" 8tpi c.1942-50 in pretty clean condition (for which I paid too little). For the second week in a row I resisted a hand-cranked bench drill and a super little WS Manufacturing Ltd. smoother. All in all a score draw I think. There were a couple of old geezers looking at the saw seller's stall who expressed regret that they hadn't seen the Disston first, which gave me a nice warm glow. 'Specially as I haggled a bit off the price to boot. Mwahahahahahahaaaaaa.... ]:~) Evidently the SS felt the grief engendered by this and sought to tell me he'd had a set of Disston cross-cut, rip and panel saws with a Disston saw vice last year. I tried to show I felt bad that I'd missed them, but heck, I can make a saw vice so I wasn't that upset ;~) Ahh, I love the smell of rust in the morning...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sands of time

Okay, so who didn't cross everything? Huh? Huh? Yep, another day, zero progress. The joys of supermarket shopping instead, and nothing wooden worth speaking of in the place, except the tannoy announcements...

So instead some more theorising and such, which is what I'm better if, if we're honest. I don't usually stumble across to the Normite side of WoodCentral, but this afternoon I did, and found this. A horror story concerning ill-health after power sanding a piece of wooden kitchen worktop, for the benefit of anyone reading this long after the link is dead. Anyway, it made for me to think. Should we regard sanding with the same kind of care and attention for Health & Safety as we would with, say, a spindle moulder? (I would say as a table saw, but I'm too well aware of what H&S practices are regularly disregarded on those... ) Okay, so the effects of sanding aren't going to result in instant loss of digits, blood etc, but examples like this show it's not always just the stranger 20 years from now whose life you could be saving, but the here-and-now you. Of course you know where this is going, don't you? Yep, the wonders of hand tools. They just don't make that killer dust that the powered demons do. If the guy had simply lugged about a #5 for a while he could have achieved the same result with the added bonus of a little cardio-vascular workout and a raging thirst... Not to say I don't slaughter a few electrons in the name of a fine finish myself, but the more I can cut back, surely the better off I'll be? And a pile of whispy shavings beats a bag o' dust any day of the week for the "Ahhh" factor from passers by. So should we treat powered sanders with the same kind of wariness bordering on horror that we do dado blades? Discuss, and please use just one side of the paper.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wot, no racing stripes?

I daresay it comes as no surprise to my regular reader* that the recent woodworking progress was too good to last and has, in fact, stopped. Temperatures of 108F in the workshop are not for me, ta muchly. Supposed to be a little more cloud about tomorrow, and cooler, so I have hopes I might make further progress - assuming something doesn't happen to preclude it. If you'd just cross everything on my behalf, I'd be obliged...

Meanwhile, amuse yourself with wondering what was going through the mind of the owner of these planes:

Be sure to appreciate the special effort used to pick out the nicker blade on the #78... Okay, so I've made some crazy handles for a spokeshave, but this is, well, I'm speechless. Heck of a lot of work to evil purpose! And too bad he didn't do something about that front knob while he was about it. Hmm, that reminds me; I've still got that router waiting the yellow paint job... and if you think I'm kidding, think again. It's a patternmaker's copy, and I really fancy "DeWalt-ing" it for the benefit of passing Normites. Heck, it's only been on the to-do list for a couple of years; should become a reality any decade now...

*Popular radio host, "Sir" Terry Wogan is often heard to joke about his "listener" (singular). I have a feeling I'm dealing more in fact than humour here. ;~)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Waxing lyrical

Well once I'm in the groove there's no stopping me, is there? Do I mean Blogging? Nope. Woodworking! Yes, despite temperatures in the workshop of 90 degrees and more, I've managed the next step in the side tables; mortising the legs.

Ye gods, but it gets hot under the ear muffs; I really need to look into ear plugs again before I melt into a pool of molten normathal.

Talking of melting, I was thinking about waxing the soles of planes today (end of tenuous link). I've discovered the BUS needs some serious attention in that department, otherwise it turns into mighty hard going to push around. Not surprising you might think, given the weight. However, I found the largely aluminium Lewin also needed frequent waxing of skate and fence. Now that's a lot lighter, and it's not because the aluminium is "sticky", because the bearing surfaces are all steel or beech. So why? Reading Hack's Handplane Book in bed last night (as you do), I noticed he claims bronze planes need more wax, but I can't remember waxing my #103 more than once or twice in the 2 years I've had it. Okay, so it's not a heavy smoother, but then neither is the Lewin... Curious. I might have to take more notice of which planes I wax and how often. It certainly makes a load of difference to the amount of effort needed to make the bally things work; every neanderthal should wax regularly. ;~)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

LIke buses, you wait for ages and then two come along at once...

Apologies to the comment contributors on the "Angst" post; I decided to lob it into the great big dustbin in the sky. I know I'm a hopeless worrier. You know I'm a hopeless worrier. But I'm damned if I'm going to be archived as a hopeless worrier...

If you've followed the link below, or otherwise read the tote thread, you'll know there seems to be a concensus I was rather brave to do it. To be honest I didn't think much of it - until this evening. I decided to make a little progress towards something similar for the BUS* and bored a few potential blanks (yes, more than one. I know my limitations all too well). Well the hole drilling went fine, but cutting the angle...? First one, I'd forgotten I'd put the bolt in the hole to test for the required height and whizz, bang, I sawed right through it. D'oh! Second one I sucessfully sawed off the carefully counterbored hole. Double D'oh! Third one seems to be okay and I got as far as cutting the recess at the bottom, but I decided to call it a day before tiredness made me do something even more stupid. Note to self: leave drilling and tapping the plane for when you're fresh and rested...

*Bevel Up Smoother

Long time, no blog.

Yes, yes, I know. What a slacker. In my defence I have been pretty busy. You know, with important stuff - like reviews and handles and tables. What, real life? Don't be daft, that's not important... Anyway, a small update on the Side Tables here. Most of that I did at the end of May (Bank Holiday you see) but all the work on the stretchers is the latest. So the reviews? Well the honing guide's okay, for a honing guide... The Bevel-Up smoother is super, apart from the rear tote... Feast your gaze on the whispy, full width, Cherry shavings:

But at least I may have a solution to my rear tote troubles at last. So busy, busy. And then people say "Oh Alf, why aren't you writing for the mags". Very flattering of course, but where would I find the TIME?! :~D