Sunday, December 31, 2006

Turn of the year

Having shamelessly neglected the ol' blogging duties in the last couple of weeks, even unto forgetting to wish everyone a Happy Christmas or other holiday of their choice, I thought I'd better end the old year in the way I'd hope the new one will begin. So turning away the numerous invitations to celebrity parties and so forth (yeah, right), here I am trying to turn a motley collection of tools into a vague resemblance to the figures two, zero, zero and seven. I really need some shinier saw blades for it to show up better.

The observant may notice the majority have previously featured on the blog, which was a nice touch I thought. On the other hand you may think I have too much time on my hands...


Monday, December 18, 2006


Chilly and breezy though it was on Sunday, with the recent awful weather it seemed too good a chance to miss some potential rust hunting, so off I toddled. Dunno why but I was in the mood to gather a handful of rust and ask "how much?" again at last, so in consequence I came away with one or two goodies. The Tall Scotsman was in attendance and in festive mood. Right off I spotted one of the thin mortise chisels was still there, so in a spirit of research I gathered it up along with a delicate (and still useable, just for a change) boxwood shave and a pair of secateurs the Old Man fancied. Price was okay, 'specially bearing in mind the spokeshave, so I coughed up. As I say, he was in festive mood and wanted to show me this and that, and while leading me to a box so to do I spotted a marking gauge that took my fancy and another transaction took place - turns out to be by Joseph Tyzack I think. This may have earned me "most favoured customer" status for that moment, 'cos one of the things he wanted to show me was a multi-tip screwdriver of novel design. No obvious maker visible at the time, but very interesting, so I said as much. "Here ya go" sez he, "Have it. But bring it back when you've cleaned it up so I can see whether you've made a good job of it."


I thanked him profusely and we moved on to the next "item of interest" - the largest size of London pattern turnscrew (18" I think he said) in as-new condition. Perishing big screwdriver, I tell you. But the best bit was he actually had 3 or 4 screws of the right size to fit it. Goodness knows what they were intended for; usually large fasteners means ships and such, but these were ordinary steel. At the extreme opposite end of the scale was a nifty "drawknife", craftsman-made with ebony caps as handles at either end of a wickedly razor sharp knife blade. He muttered about it being for violin making, but I was hopelessly off the ball so I failed to ask for clarification.

Anyway eventually we went on our merry way and I was pretty convinced I must have had my good luck for the day. However, in amongst an unpromising-looking seller's goodies was another box of rust, from which I hauled a virtually unused 1 3/4" Hearnshaw brothers double iron, dittto on the condition of a larger spokeshave, a few bits including another variety of reamer and a wooden 3 1/2ft Tee-square. The reamers are funny; I went for years without seeing one and now I'm ending up with one of virtually every pattern ever made. As for the Tee-square, well who can resist mahogany with ebony edges? Well I can't... And yeah, you're thinking "how did a 3 1/2 foot square fit in a box?" - it didn't. In fact I nearly missed it altogether, it being in full view and all.

Time caught up with me so I don't have a pic of the cleaned goodies yet 'cos it was too dark, but I did finally track down the details of the screwdriver despite the patent number I found on it being apparently completely wrong. Luckily "Nettlefolds" was enough to assist me to find the correct patent here. Although I bet you have no idea how many patents Nettlefolds took out...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Toy tools

Thousands of pounds worth of equipment in the workshop and what do I find myself making as my woodworking task for this week? Parrot toys. Yes, the drillpress has had to exert itself to bore holes in a cuttlefish bone. The bandsaw has earnt its keep sawing softwood blocks. Frankly it's embarrassing, especially given the likelihood that the ungrateful birds will ignore them.

Except... Good lord, even as I finished typing that I turned round to see both of them with softwood blocks in claw, applying themselves to destroying them as intended. Whoohoo! And thinking about it, maybe it's not such a waste of the tools. Have you seen the prices of "proper" parrot toys? Crumbs, given the materials involved and the fact that destruction is part of the point, well I don't think even Karl Holtey would think it feasible to charge as much.

Oh, some woodworking trivia. Did you know Mike Humphries, Woodrat instructor extraordinaire, also used to do a side-line in parrot toys? Having acquired some many years ago I had a sneaking suspicion the students' practice pieces from the woodturning courses he also used to do weren't going to waste...

Friday, December 15, 2006


You know I wondered yesterday about hidden cameras? Well call me Truman Burbank - at least that's what it feels like. I've got one article already "on the spike" and another one I'm working on, and would you believe both subjects have popped up on various forms in separate discussions in the last few days? I'm sitting here telling myself this is a Good Thing and shows my finger's On The Pulse, but superficially I fear it may just appear I've been culling all my stuff from other people. Sigh. And here I am trying to be original. Oh well, just have to hope "it's the way I tell 'em"...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fairy Story

My tenuously tree-related craftwork for today?

Making a paper skirt for a fairy.

Some days I find myself looking around for the hidden cameras, I really do. But if truth be told said fairy has been in need of new clothing (for decency's sake as much as anything...) for a few years now. And yes, as you may have guessed, she's the fairy from the top of the Christmas tree; I believe she pretty comfortably pre-dates me as a member of the family. Originally she came with a skirt of crepe paper and golden (iirc) mesh, but years of having the top of a pine tree rammed up her, ah, garments as a means of getting her to stay in place at the top of the tree, well they long ago took their inevitable toll and she's been hiding behind a swathe of tinsel since the early 1990s. So today I sat down and pleated some tissue paper and bound it on with the aid of some wired tinsel. From a distance it didn't look too bad, although close to it's a little more revealing in terms of what shows through than is perhaps desirable in a Christmas fairy. Shouldn't be a problem as long as the cross-eyed robin isn't placed in an unfortunate position... But as I say, didn't look too bad.

Unforunately surviving the brisk tree-dressing habits of the Old Man was more than the pleats could cope with...

Mind you we're lucky to have any other decorations but lights round here at all. The Old Man loves his Christmas lights. Not the large, inflatable snowman, santa-and-sleigh-across-the-roof kind of lights, but strings and strings of little fairy lights. Mainly white. He does all the front windows and a string in the wisteria by the front door, not for our benefit but for the Chapel carolaire which is held just over the road and considered to be a bit of A Local Event. Then it spread to doing the front part of the hall with what was left over of the string of lights from doing the front door. Fresh lights this year have enabled a really good spread into the rest of the hall and comfortably into the dining room so it resembles Santa's grotto. The only thing likely to stop the march next year is going to be a shortage of map pins...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tidy. ish.

Tsk, letting things slip again, shame on me. Not that I've been idle, mind you; the workshop is tidy again. ish. That is there are areas of horizontal surface visible to the human eye without the aid of x-ray. And I snatched a moment or two to clean up the Old Man's chosen measuring instruments for Christmas. I fear he picked a really awful set of vernier calipers that are likely to drive him nuts, but I did my best with them. I might see if I've got a spare set of dividers in the "stores" to throw in to make up for them a little; fat chance of ever getting near fresh rust with the current weather we're having. More worryingly other bits and bobs of a less previously-owned nature are exhibiting great reluctance to show up through the letterbox, so his pressie pile has something of the barren wasteland about it at the moment. I feel artistic IOUs are increasingly on the cards...

As far as actual woodworking goes, turned up some basic handles for a couple of things but nothing much else. Lots of things I should be doing, from real wodworking to theoretical stuff, but somehow... Trouble is everything tends to hang fire while you wait to "get Christmas out of the way" and before you know it it's the middle of January and you've lost another month. So perhaps I'd better revert back to deliberately doing the one-day-on-one-day-off routine in a bid for a little workshop discipline. Maybe I can finally get round to making my Mum a replacement for a box of her's that's been on its last legs for a couple of years now in time for her birthday? Hell, I'll have to deal with that rust on top of the Maxi first. Oh, phooey. Sometimes it feels less like the tools are there to help the woodworking and more that they're there to prevent me doing any...

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Caution! Nothing to do with real woodworking and everything to do with fora - feel free to skip it.

The final demise of the MSN UKwoodworking group recently got me in reflective mode. This was the early front-runner in the wunnerful world of UK woodworking fora. I joined up five and more years ago, when I was first online and it was hosted on Yahoo Clubs. Anyone remember those?! Yahoo killed the clubs and Yahoo Groups was frankly awful, so after a lot of looking and one abortive try-out on Community Zero, we ended up at MSN. Not ideal, and we lost some members who didn't care for the MS connection, but we toddled along quite nicely with UKwoodworking for a couple of years, give or take. Why did it die the death? Well mainly 'cos of one ill-mannered individual actually, but it would have gone in the end anyway. It was a dinosaur. The membership were almost exclusively amateurs, no axes to grind, no influence to speak of, no self-consciousness about saying silly but funny things, no-one trying to sell anything (except the occasional dodgy bit of porn, which was deleted) and, perhaps most importantly of all, everyone pretty much "knew" everyone else. You could tease someone, make a joke slightly at their expense, have a good old disagreement over something, whatever, but when push came to shove everyone knew where the winking smilies were and that a disagreement over one thing didn't mean a lifetime's alienation. I can't help but feel they were more innocent times.

These days? God help us, internet fora have a degree of influence. Influence equates to power, and power frequently fails to bring out the best in people. Look at all those Roman emperors... And fora have got bigger. Much bigger. Too big for one man and a dog to look after, so you need a body of moderators to look after things. And if the membership is too large to have a hope of all being on the same wavelength you should try half a dozen moderators trying to make a decision. So if those setting the tone of a forum can't agree, and the forum membership is sufficiently large that the range of characters and opinions is such that there are bound to be disagreements, well you start to get trouble. But of course that influence also brings the commercial sector into the equation, and they want to sell stuff and then there's even more pressure on moderators to strike the right balance. And, inevitably, some people won't like one or other aspect so they fall by the wayside.

So it comes to pass that one day you wake up to this, look around you and find you're part of a forum that has virtually nothing in common with the one you joined and many of your old friends have simply faded away. You can't write anything without second guessing what someone else will say and wondering whether it'll result in spending the next three days posting a defence of your legitimate alternative position. So you start to hesitate to post. I've found posting to forums is a habit; once you're in the groove you'll not hesitate to post even a silly comment if you think it may amuse. Get out of the habit, and suddenly a useful and informative post becomes too much effort to type. So inexorably that forum you don't recognise any more becomes less and less recognisable and you post less and less, so it's less and less like the place you used to know and love, so you post even less, and so... ad infinitum.

Just recently there's been a brief flurry of posts that almost restore my faith and make me feel like the forum I know isn't entirely gone away. Almost. But increasingly it feels like just a matter of time before we shall go our separate ways.

The fact is it's dawning on me that the dinosaur is probably me...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bristol fashion

So yesterday was an "off" day wasn't it? Except it was an "on" day. Whereas today was technically an "on" day but actually it was "off". Clear as mud... Oh, except I had to pop into the workshop to check the thread size of the busted Bristol lever on the tailstock of the lathe. Useless blooming piece of plastic junk; so much for "shipshape and Bristol fashion" huh? With luck the aluminium replacements I've ordered will do the job and be a might sturdier. And yeah, more than one of them. Two; one for the tool rest as well 'cos I can see that giving up the ghost in a similar manner. Oh well, the penalty of buying a budget tool; at least the rest of it seems to be okay - touch wood. Goodness knows when they'll turn up though, it being such a busy time of the year for the post. Having said which I got one thing from Tuesday's online shopping efforts next day, which was impressive. As if to make up for it something else hasn't even been dispatched yet. Sigh.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Escape to Victory

It really sucks, finishing a project and being unable to do the blog-brag thing. It's the last time I ever make something for anybody who might be a reader 'cos the delayed gratification of postings pics is No Fun. Quite frankly blogging about musing from your workbench while not being able to be specific about what exactly is on your workbench that you're musing over has a number of downsides too... However, on the plus side and as you may have gathered, today's "off" day miraculously turned into an "on" day and the Great Escape has metaphorically fired up the motorbike and is making a spirited attempt at successfully jumping the barbed wire border into Switzerland. Yay.

In consequence naturally the workshop is in a total mess, so eventually an "on" day is going to have to embrace all the joy of tidying up. Bum. I seem to have various boxes of old tools lying about the place again too - damned if I know how that happens... Yikes, just remembered I've got those calipers to clean up for the Old Man. Looks like a bout of tool cleaning is on the cards then. And hey, hardly worth tidying up for that, is it? Yessssss.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Throwing things at lawyers

Don't say it too loud, and you may assume I'm clutching a large tree while I type this, but I think my back's on the mend. At last. If you're all very lucky indeed I may not have to speak of any ill health again this year - jolly well hope so.

So where were we? Today's an "on" day isn't it? Hope so, 'cos I'm a step nearer The Great Escape. Yes, okay, so I managed to screw up one, but give me credit, I rescued it. It's not a mistake, it's a Design Opportunity all right? Don't recall when I first came across the concept of things not being mistakes but DOs but I'm sure my woodworking enjoyment factor went up a couple of points right away. Although I do try very hard not to get hung up on making things perfect, it doesn't simply come naturally. After infinite labour and years of training I can just about manage a good impression of being philosophical about things these days though, so I have hopes that a couple more decades and I may actually mean it. Anyway, with all this progress, I'm wondering what I'll do next after the fearful shadow of Christmas presents is removed. Ought to think about that saw till again I suppose, only I've gone right off the tambour idea. Tsk, wish I wasn't so fickle. Heigh ho, at least I can be philosophical about it.

Oh yeah, we have another Hatch Day today (s'all go isn't it?) JMF, long-term nephew, owner of Mythical & Legendary Music Stand, infrequent reader and lawyer-in-training (now, now, don't throw things; apparently someone's got to do it) is, erm, well older today. Sheesh, he must be getting old if I can't keep track of how ancient he is now. Or maybe that's me getting old? No, don't answer that; go back to throwing things at the lawyer...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Good news - I was sleeping sound and undisturbed at 2am this morning.

Unfortunately it only meant I woke up at 4am instead. D'oh. Oh well, not too bad, although this is definitely an "off" day. But not a dead loss; I used the Power of the Internet to do a little Christmas shopping that can't be accomplished by workshop time. I must say there's a helluva a lot to be said for sitting in the comfort of your own home with a mug of tea as compared to slogging round the pitiful excuse for a shopping experience that is Truro City Centre. Although I admit I got a little side-tracked into coffee creams and a whole world of on-line sweet shops ('Murricanism - candy stores?). I confess I was thoroughly mugged in Memory Lane as details of Rhubarb & Custards and Rosie Apples flashed before my eyes. Sigh. Even I can remember when you used to get your sweets by the quarter from a jar as a matter of course. Nowadays it's cause for remark when you see a proper sweet shop. Golly, how about this one? Wowsers. About 20 years ago I had a tuck box that would have welcomed that with open arms and no mistake. And chocolate cigarettes forsooth! I thought they must have been outlawed as encouraging bad habits in the young, although the only bad habit I acquired was a love of chocolate, which was probably on the cards anyway.

Ack, I'm off to further wallow in nostalgia and try very hard not to order anything...

Monday, December 04, 2006


So today was the "on" day, and by some miracle I did actually make a teeny bit more progress, even unto having two completed items. Well three, but one was the first attempt and went rather horribly wrong... But hey, whoohoo, eh? Mind you, after Saturday's efforts I woke up in the early hours of Sunday and really thought I'd done it this time; I could barely stagger to my feet at all, never mind the 8 laps of the kitchen table necessary for the Heating Of The Wheat Bag. Just a bit scary actually. A small offering to the tool gods maybe in order so as not to repeat the experience at about 2am tomorrow...

Asise from doing a creditable impression of The Wreck of the Hesperus, today we actually remembered it was PJ's hatch day - nine whole years since this planet was first cursed with his feathered ego. Hard to believe he's 9 really, even though he's only been here for 6 1/2, being "pre-owned". The trouble is, how ever many years pass, he'll always act like a delinquent 3 year old.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Plasticine tools

So I seem to be running into a sort of one-day-on/one-day-off pattern of woodworking at the mo'. Well I say a pattern, but does it count after only three days...? Never mind, a tiny bit of additional progress has been made and all I need is enough tiny bits to add up (in time) and Everything's Under Control. The key is not to prevaricate about the bush, which as long-time readers know is not my strongest suite.

You may detect one or two Wallace-isms creeping in there; I've been on a bit of a Nick Park binge having finally got round to transferring the earlier stuff to DVD so I can watch it again. You know there are quite a few tools - and hand tools what's more - in Mr Park's work when you're on the look out for them. Okay, so the saw in A Grand Day Out isn't exactly a Wenzloff but judging by the lack of depth under the handle it must be a favourite of Wallace's. Well that could be the reason it looks like that, couldn't it...? The chickens in Chicken Run use lots and lots of tools of course, including planing a beam with a wooden jack by the simple technique of having the beam on the tilt and sitting on the plane and riding it down the wood. Sigh, not being the size of a chicken I can't try that out, but it looks like fun. Unless, perhaps, you hit a knot...

Friday, December 01, 2006

December's back again

Tsk, here we are at December already; I don't know where this year's gone, I really don't. But hey, November was signed off in style with a flurry-ette of activity in the workshop aimed towards breaking the back of the Christmas Present Problem. Trouble is that demands batch production, so while I did make progress there's still nothing in an actual finished state. Bum. I did at least get a disc sanding arrangement rigged up without too much hassle, which had been giving me some cause to worry. Not usually a disc sanding kind of gal but it was required in this case so I saved some time by using the table from my old combi disc/belt sander that I used once, hated and consigned to oblivion. The disc part that is; the belt sander bit gets used quite a bit for tool-related stuff. That and an MDF disc on the lathe faceplate and behold, a variable speed disc sander. Even had one of the adhesive discs I got with the original sander handy; must be all of 8 years old and waiting for its moment of triumph. Amazed I could find it when I needed it.

Yeah, okay, so I need to work on the dust extraction a little more...

Mind you, it's still very much touch and go as to whether I'll meet the deadline. What with one thing and another, mainly a bad back (again), I reckon I've lost at least one solid month of workshop time in this run-up to Crimbo. One Solid Month. That's not a case of "not much workshop time" but actual "not making anything in the workshop at all". The last couple of weeks haven't seen me darken its doors - and then to my horror when I did get in there I found this on the Maxi:

Okay, so if had been on practically anything else but the Maxi then I'd be really upset, but as it is it's something I could do without. Still not entirely sure whether it was dripping condensation or something worse. We have had some really fearsome driving rain and winds lately...

Anyway, did at least do something. Or maybe that should more accurately be over-did something. I figured if I was to take advantage of any workshop time I'd better go big and do as much as possible, and oh brother, has my back been telling me all about it. I don't know if the readership are familiar with wheat bags you heat up in the microwave and apply as localised warmth to aches and pains e.g. bad backs? Blessed invention. None of the stress of hot water bottles and worrying if you've finally perished the rubber and are going to be scalded by a dose of escaping hot water. I must have re-heated my wheat bag at least a dozen times last night; two minutes at 750w. Funny how two minutes can seem like a long time though, when you're desperate for it to be over. I could hardly even bear to stand still last night, so I was doing laps of the kitchen table while I waited. Averaged 15 seconds a lap, although curiously I was slightly faster going clockwise than counter-clockwise. At the time I found that interesting - which probably tells you all you need to know about my state of mind at 3 in the morning when I'm going "ow".

And finally, I've made the switch from Blogger to BloggerBeta, so if you come across any hitches give a yell. Seems I've got to start coming up with "labels" for posts. I think they mean categories. Ooo, that's going to be hard; I shall have to think about that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

For slim pigs?

I admit I have yet to comb all possible references, but has anyone else ever come across oval bolstered mortise chisels, aka "Pigstickers" in sizes less than 1/8" (3mm) in width? I did, on Sunday, but I must have had a mental aberration 'cos I didn't buy them. They looked ridiculously thin but were fearsomely strong. What on earth would you want such a narrow width but such strength for? Bizarre. My malaise continues 'cos that was by no means the only tools of possible interest I saw but not one jot of enthusiasm was worked up for them. Contented myself with a very crispy 5/8" Jennings auger bit, a Marples ratchet screwdriver and yet another Eclipse 77 saw set. I may have to start giving them away as free gifts with saws at this rate... Oh, and the Old Man expressed a desire for calipers for Christmas, so a selection followed us home too. Gawd knows when I'm going to get to clean them in time though.

Meanwhile Blogger is adjuring me to switch to its new improved version - I fear mass deletion of archive and ensuing wailing and gnashing of teeth, so I'm reluctant. Oh well, if this blog suddenly vanishes you'll know what it was. With the current blogging rate you may not even notice...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Audible happiness

I dunno, it's probably me, but I find myself losing patience with a lot of threads on woodworking fora at the mo'. I'm in danger of turning into one of those old cumudgeons who poo-poos everything so instead I find myself refraining from commenting on anything just to avoid that particular Slippery Slope. I mean ten pages on sharpening when everyone'd got the gist within two was bad enough, but three pages on how best to store your planes - sole down or on their sides - is going to far isn't it? It may seem like a couple of millennia since I last used a plane in anger, but I seem to recall that when I do I'm busy thinking about the work, not the orientation of the damn plane on the damn bench. And anyway there's a layer of shavings to put the thing down on when I'm using it. Tsk, I blame the precision school of woodworking for the problem. Nothing but shavings of one or two thou ain't going to make a nice comfy bed for a #75 never mind a decent plane.

And yeah, you may assume a "Bah, humbug" or two if you like; it'd be nothing short of the truth I fear. D'you realise it's a month til Crimbo? Ye gods, and here's me still stalled in the starting gates. I wonder if folks would welcome a surprise Christmas gift in, say, February...?

On the other hand, just to momentarily haul me out of my trough of despondency, a minor bit of serendipity. I admit it didn't start out auspiciously 'cos I was pretty sure I'd over-paid for a job lot of mixed planes in a fit of insanity. Largely wooden moulders, and it turned out some of them were homemade (never trust someone trying to sell you planes in the darkest corner of their kitchen...), but on closer examination one of them stepped into a breach in a most timely manner so I warmed to them a bit more and looked a little closer at the only metal example - the bulk of a Record #044. I say the bulk, but that doesn't include more than one blade. On the other hand, to make up as it were, it did have a healthy load of extra rust as compensation. Hah hum. As it stands I don't have a complete example of a 044. I've got one that's oh-so close, but it's shy the 1/8" blade. Could it possibly be...? No need to still my beating heart 'cos I''ve been here before and been disappointed; when you're a combination plane, ah hum, "accumulator", you get used to missing parts, duplicate parts and the latter never quite fulfilling the role of the former. But hey, you still gotta try every time, haven't you? So I tried.


And yes, I think an audio special effect is a first for this blog...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Many happy returns

Tsk, I'm getting to be a very intermittant blogger these days, aren't I? Be thankful - you wouldn't enjoy it if I was blogging every day, moaning and whining about this and that. You're lucky to get the edited version of yours truly, wish I did...

'Twas the Old Man's birthday yesterday and, as predicted, he'd forgotten all about the corner brace so it came as a pleasant surprise and the necessary Brownie points were awarded as expected. Better still the wind howled and the rain came down, so I didn't miss any good tool hunting while enjoying a nice meal at a local hotel... Can't ask for more than that really, can you? Chuckle. Both my brothers and sisters-in-law also came down so we were en masse which is always good fun. Not least 'cos you can get an awful lot of mileage teasing my elder bro... On the other hand my studious nephews were missed - just when we'd got my mum trained to answer in the affirmative to a bread roll even if she didn't want one in order to pass it to a "boy", there she was finding herself plus bread roll but minus grandson. Whoops. Wood-related stuff though, was thin on the ground. There was an oak long case clock of the granddaughter size that I could have sworn sounded nine at noon, but it didn't haven't many other distinguishing features. Sigh. Times like this you could really do with living up country where there's a bit more timber used in buildings.

Oh, but on the other hand one of the Old Man's gifts was a Fein MultiMaster which might come in handy some time. Now don't look at me like that; I was good and haven't even picked it up yet, never mind pestering him for a "go".

Plenty of time for that, after all...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No wotchamacallit time

All right, just don't ask. I didn't get online at all on Monday; and that wasn't even because the connection was down, which will cause anyone knowing my usual internet dependency to gasp in horror. No, the connection went flaky yesterday... Shame too 'cos I have Good news about the lad and his Cage of Doom. He is now in it fulltime - much, much sooner than I feared. Not that he was, or indeed is, entirely happy, but on the other hand he's not trying to pluck out all his feathers or throwing himself at the bars in a terminal decline so I think he's okay really. As predicted, pomegranate helped smooth the path...

He's managed to muck up all those carefully scrubbed perches with all the juice of course. Sigh. Parrots, who'd have 'em?

Woodworking? Hah, don't make me laugh. I have a hazy recollection of some sort of building not far from here with, dunno, tools of some sort in it? What was it called? Some sort of work space? Shop of some kind...? So much for getting Crimbo pressies done - not touched tool to wood in weeks; feels more like years. Heigh ho, looks like I've got a parcel of plough plane website updating to do though, so that'll keep me busy and even longer from the... you know... on the tip of my tongue... place to make stuff... got some machines and such in there... wood and so forth I seem to recall... you know, the wotchamacallit...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Scraping the barrel

Remarkably we still keep getting nice sunny days (although not today) so here's a snap I took the other day of the church taken from the other side of the reservoir. It's about halfway between the left edge of the pic and the water, just below the ridge of the hill behind. In belated answer to the query in the comments box, very much a country church; I imagine all the effort put into the decoration of the building came less from the size of congregation and more from the age-old belief that spending money in the right place now will get you better seats in the afterlife...

Meanwhile, prompted by a not-entirely welcome reminder also in the comments box, I was thinking about just how far I haven't progressed in my quest for tool storage. It really is all on hold while I try and get to doing Crimbo pressies, but surely the gods can't contrive to hold me up in that respect much longer, can they?

Actually don't answer that...

But the fact is I'm seriously thinking of shelving any wild thoughts of tambours - please don't throw things - not because I don't still think it's a good idea, but because I'd quite like to get this done before the next millenium. It'd be nice to have even started before this time next year, quite frankly...

Oh, and small but significant progress vis-a-vis the Cage Of Doom - the lad has unwillingly set foot in it for a couple of minutes before exploding out of the door and into my face in a flurry of wings and scattered feathers. What with that and the firm attempts, by means of beak on flesh (my flesh, his beak), to get himself as far away as possible when I try and get him to go a bit closer to it, I'm not so sure this isn't turning out more painful to me than him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chips with everything...

... or to Cap It All.

I've been musing on the Cap Iron/Chip Breaker question just recently. It's cropped up not only on UK Workshop but also recently on the Old Tools List, notably from the Never-Wronged Rev Ron, better known to the world as Ron Hock of aftermarket blade fame. His understanding of the purpose, and one I believe also, is as follows:

"...that the part formerly known as "chip-breaker" probably isn't breaking any chips but that doesn't mean that it's not doing anything in this system. It's adding significant rigidity to that springy bevel right down close to the cutting edge."

Now this is in Bailey planes, so don't come running with arguments based on woodies or infills or the legendary planes of the gods or nuffink, 'cos I'll just say "it's not a Bailey pattern" and laugh in your face. Yes, I will. So there.

Anyway, when I first came across the term "chip breaker", I was nonplussed. Well to be honest I thought it was just another example of the 'Murrican habit of giving things all the wrong names like "trunk", "faucet" and "rabbet" instead of "boot", "tap" and "rebate". Not that we love y'all any the less for these charming peccadilloes, but we do chuckle to ourselves and wonder when you're going to start learning English again... Hah, and just looking at "nonplussed" in the dictionary I see in North America it means exactly the opposite to what the rest of us mean - there you go again, you see? But where was I...? Oh, yeah, chip breaker. Chip? I mean c'mon, the plane famous for making chips is the scrub*, and that doesn't have a cap iron... Numerous folks better able to come over all scientific than I have demonstrated that as far as breaking shavings goes, it does no such thing.

But no matter, sez I to myself, 'cos here I am safe and sound in that backwater of guilt and apology-for-Empire called Merrie Olde England where a biscuit's a biscuit and not a cookie and a cap iron it shall be. But no, creeping insidiously into British woodworking is the dreaded "chip breaker", often from respected authors who, frankly, ought to know better. Now I'm not saying "cap iron" is the peak of semantic gorgeousness, 'cos frankly it could be describing a hot metal plate for flattening headgear in the North of England, but it has deep roots here and does not pretend that the darn thing does any kind of breaking of chips.

So with gladsome cry do I read Mr Hock's post and others in the thread rounding upon the term "chip breaker", grinding it in the dust beneath their boots and proclaiming the term "cap iron". And many of them of the 'Murrican persuasion too. Now take the hint; are we not on a current wave of handtool-using enthusiasm? We are. And who got there first; were, in fact, in the vanguard of promoting same? Why the Old Tools List. Spot the trend? Yep, if the "in" crowd are coming round to calling it a cap iron it's just a matter of time...

I now await the deluge of disagreement and possibly affronted Nationalistic pride that'll no doubt flood into the comments box. Hey, feel free. At least it gives you something to think about and leaves only one more blog entry tomorrow to keep my promise, which may or may not be the real point of this whole post...

*Or maybe the Record Spudmatic 1000, a short-lived plane from the late 1950s found in some fish & chip** establishments...

** Another example; "chips" equals "fries". Unfortunately it completely kills the joke, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Terrible Twos

Yep, it's 2 years, 731 days, 17,536 hours (give or take), over 21,374 visits and 309 posts on and amazingly this Blog is still going. When I started this woodworking blogs were thin on the ground, nowadays everyone's doing it with added audio and visual in some cases - some even restrict themselves to woodworking content... Fear not, I have zero intention of inflicting podcast or vlog upon the long-suffering reader; as you may have noticed I'm hard-pressed enough to get any woodworking on here at all. Anyway, many thanks to the readership without whom I'd be talking to myself, not that that'd stop me...

And to celebrate I have Good News. After many years of begging and pleading any and everybody for same, a noble Australian has at last come to my rescue and provided a scan of a 1966 (guessing from the code at the bottom) Record 043/044 manual. Huzzah! It's a little the worst for wear, so I'm doing some painstaking work in cleaning it up and trying to make it legible, even to the point of retyping text and replacing essential lines on the diagrams. Not by any means done yet, but I've put up the progress so far (412KB) for anyone else like me who's been long waiting to see this elusive manuscript.

All right, don't all rush at once...

Next task, a page on the Record 044 along the same lines as the 040/043 page. Hey, another couple of centuries at this pace and we'll have a Record Blood & Gore...

Edit: Finished the manual - at least I hope so, unless folks say they can't read it... Down to a miserly 348KB what's more.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Drawer diversion

Surprisingly enough I have managed to get a teeny thing or two done in the workshop - you know the sort. The oddments that take a disproportionate amount of time to do for the size of task and yet once they're done you wonder why you didn't get on and do it earlier 'cos it's such an improvement. One such was turning two shallow drawers into one deep one able to take "some" of the bench planes on their soles and convenient to seize up and use (hollow laughter is permitted here). Previously they'd been on their sides and inconvenient. Actually that's not strictly true; previously they'd been in the tool chest but I couldn't get into the tool chest at the moment even if I wanted to there's so much gubbins heaped on top.

T'was but the work of several hours to remove one drawer and cunningly attach its false front on top of the remaining one to preserve the illusion of equally-sized drawers. It'll be fine as long as I don't try to open the drawer by the top, "false" handles too often - it's a fairly heavy load in there.

That left me with a spare drawer box and set of runners, but as I was cobbling together the original and discarded base from the Old Man's workbench and some ply to make a bit of bench top, it wasn't too appallingly difficult to fit the drawer to it while I was at it, and thus made some very welcome additional storage space. Nope, it's not by any stretch of the imagination pretty, but it is solid and didn't cost me a bean, so heck, I can live with ugly.

Not costing a bean was an important factor - as is so often the case when you've just spent a sum of money (cage), other things started falling apart in all directions such as the DVD recorder and other items of Expense. Naturally this also tends to happen in the run-up to Christmas rather than, say, July when the demands on the budget are much lessened. Damn you Murphy and your Law... One consolation is at least there's no Axminster Show this year so I'm not looking down the barrel of a show with no funds to furnish the party bag with goodies.

Meanwhile the cage still glowers in the corner:

And Bertie still waggles his wings in concern in his old cage:

He's greatly enjoying pomegranates at the moment (one look at the state of his perches would tell you that; the juce goes everywhere), so perhaps enough slices of same in the new cage will lessen his horror. I've also got in another new example of his favourite type of toy with similar bribery in mind. Nevertheless, I forsee a long and protracted propaganda campaign will be required before feathered foot steps willingly into powder-coated Cage of Doom. Oh well, early days yet...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sing like birds i' the cage

Methinks The Reader will be thinking I've forgotten him. 'Tis not so, just seems that way. I mean really, do we want this Blog to turn into the virtual equivalent of the old lady in the doctor's waiting room who buttonholes you and starts listing all her ailments and medical predicaments? No, I thought not. So just assume workshop time is - again - curtailed. Dammit.

On the plus side, we now Have Parrot Cage. Unfortunately not the colour we waited three weeks for - nope, turns out one didn't turn up with the supplier's last order and it'd be another 5 weeks. Grrrr. Well as 3 weeks guaranteed nothing there was no reason to suppose an 8 week wait would be any better, and perhaps the colour that was available would be unavailable by then, so on the principle that a cage in the hand... So it sits there, dark and menacing, while Bertie does his best "I'm a poor little fledgling, save me" wing-waggling routine in sheer horror. Jolly good fun putting one of these darn things together; if you were brought up on Meccano. I wasn't. Took the best part of a day, what with having to clean it all first in case of evil anti-parrot germs thereon - yea, even unto the very nuts and bolts. The things I do for these birds...

Anyway, I shall try and actually keep the resolution I made this time last week, and blog faithfully the Whole Week. After all, it's our second anniversary on Wednesday; please supply your own party hats. With luck I won't be in quite such Bardish mood by tomorrow, so that's something to look forward to at least...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


All Hallow's Eve and an eldritch screech rends the air...

... yes, the screaming file is a sure sign that the saw's marginally too high in the vice again.

Trick or Treat? Hah, demanding chocolate with menaces more like. I've no objection to the idea in North America where it belongs, but over here it turns me into a first class Hallowe'en Scrooge. Luckily I didn't see one little darling with a plastic pumpkin-shaped bucket begging for sweets or I wouldn't have been responsible for the outcome. At the very least extensive questioning over how much pocket money they got and a short quiz on the origins of the occasion before they got the trick... Hrumph; we used to have a turnip with a nightlight in it and go in for bobbing apples in my day. And if you got the apple without the worm in it you were jolly grateful.

Bah, humbug. And no, they're my humbugs and you're not getting any.

Oh yeah, now the joy of fireworks for a week. Someone started up at midnight, for Fawkes sake...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Shipwright's Boys' Tools

Ah, Monday mornings; don'tcha just love 'em? Anyway, I hope I haven't over-sold this one...

Courtesy of the National Archives in Kew (reference ADM 106/241) via the generosity of Nicholas Blake, this is - well it's all explained in the letter really. It's the agreement on what and how many extra tools were to be issued for the benefit of the shipwrights' and caulkers' apprentices. I've done my best to transcribe it from the pics of the original accurately, but there may be a few slip-ups. First, the letter. And yes, it really does appear to say "conformably" and you thought management speak was a recent phenomenon...

Admiralty Office 1st December 1812


Whereas by your letter of the 28th ultimo you have returned to us the abstract which we had transmitted to you containing our decision as to the number of tools to be allowed for the use of the additional numbers of boys prepared to be instructed on board His Majesty's Ships in the Shipwrights and Caulkers trades; and conformably to our directions you have sent us an account of the value of the said tools we do hereby desire and direct you to cause the additional tools specified in the enclosed Account to be allowed to the different Rates of His Majesty's Ships for the additional Boys proposed to be instructed in the Shipwrights and Caulkers trades. We further signify that the Carpenters of His Majesty's Ships are to be charged with the said tools, as with other stores and their expenditure is to be most carefully regulated observing that they are not to be made use of for any other purposes than those for which they are intended, we are,

Your affectionate friends

H Yorke
H Dundas
J Osborn

I do love the last bit; yes, we're letting you have these things, but we're watching you... "Affectionate friends" is a bit of a surprise though. Anyway, the enclosed account as mentioned is as follows. The numbers afterwards are the allotted quantity for certain ships based on their rates. Thus the first and second rates (the largest) are first, then third & fourth, fifth & sixth rates and finally "small vessels". So Axe is 6 for the 1st & 2nd rates, 4 for the 3rd & 4th, and one each for the 5th, 6th and unrated vessels. "[?"] means I've made a best guess on the word based on shape and deduction but don't take it as gospel. Full descriptions are given for each tool simply because the blog can't cope with the formatting needed to present it as written.

Deptford Yard
25th Nov 1812
An account showing the usual[?] quantities of tools to be furnished for the use of the Boys who are prepared to be instructed on board H.M. Ships in the Shipwrights and Caulkers Trades.

Shipwrights Tools

Adzes, common
Adzes, compass
Saws, hand
Saws, compass
Mauls, pin [?]
Mauls, double headed
Hammers, claw
Hammers, sheathing
Hammers, clench
Chizles of 2 inches
Chizles of 1 1/2 inches
Chizles of 1 inch
Chizles of 3/4 inch
Chizles, Mortice 5/8 inch
Chizles, Mortice 1/2 inch
Chizles, Mortice 3/8 inch
Chizles, Mortice 1/4 inch
Gouges 2 1/2 inches
Gouges 2 inches
Gouges 1 1/2 inches
Gouges 1 inch
Slices 4 inches
Augers 1 1/2 inches
Augers 1 3/8 inches
Augers 1 1/4 inches
Augers 1 1/8 inches
Augers 1 inch
Augers 7/8 inch 1.1.1 .1
Augers 3/4 inch
Augers 5/8 inch
Gimblets 1/2 inch
Gimblets 3/8 inch
Gimblets small sorts
Planes, Jack
Planes, Smoothing
Drawing Knives
Squares, Iron
Lines [?]
Stones, Turkey
Stones, Rag [?]
Spoke Shaves
Saw Set
Punches, nail
Punches, Socket for Boat [hook?]
Punches, brad
Chest for Tools

Caulkers Tools

Iron caulkings
Reaming [?] Hooks

I feel a distinct likelihood of finding myself taking Christopher Gabriel and the Tool Trade in 18th Century London off the shelf now. There's a comprehensive inventory taken in 1800 with values - reckon they wouldn't have changed that much and it might be interesting to see how much all that would have cost. But no, I won't be blogging that - this is bloomin' hard work!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blog Written in a Country Churchyard

With the clocks going back, Winter is truly upon us and all is woe and misery until the Spring. So naturally nature has gone "ya boo, that's what you think" and it's a beautiful sunny day. Putting aside the habit of a lifetime, I decided to go for a walk - just a couple of miles up to the local church and back, but that's more than enough for yours truly. Anyway, it dawned on me I've blogged the delights of views up country while on my travels but not the local scenery, so I donned my long coat, slipped my camera in my pocket, seized up a walking stick (obligatory wooden content) and set off. Must have looked a little incongruous with the iPod on too, but never mind...

I'll spare you the muddy lane, deep in leaf mould at the sides i.e. where you have to retreat whenever a car comes along. There was considerable evidence that squirrels had this way been - hazelnut and acorn husks everywhere. Gave a few brambles a thwack in the hopes of making the way a little easier for the next traveller, but they're tough old things and really needed a sword stick not a walking stick to make much impression. "Going" is much the worst, 'cos most of it's uphill, so I was much relieved to reach my goal and get a fine eyeballfull up the valley to Penryn and beyond to the blue ridge foothills of the china clay waste up by St Austell. These days the china clay folks get enviromental awards for flattening off the waste piles and making them green to "blend in" with the surrounding countryside (which they don't). But not that long ago they used to be left white and looked like snow-capped mountains, which was much more fun IMO. Heigh ho.

The church itself has an extremely picturesque pathway from the road, down paste high stone walls liberally coated with moss, ferns and worts of some sort, and an exceedlingly solid granite coffin rest and benches at the bottom. Of course that was for the benefit of the poor fellows who used to have to carry the coffin all the way, the church being well outside any of the villages it serves. No-one wants huffing and puffing pallbearers in church. I figured they wouldn't want a huffing and puffing me in the churchyard either, so I took advantage for a while too. That stone chills you to the bone though, so I soon moved on.

The world being as it is isolated country churches are kept locked, so I couldn't go in and look for decorative woodwork, but no matter 'cos there's a wonderful piece of carving in a granite doorframe. The green and orange that looks so extrordinary is actually moulds and lichen I believe - that doorway's in a particularly damp, North-facing spot.

Granite's the building material of choice for the whole church and most of the gravestones, as you might expect given that we're plumb in the middle of a load of granite quarries. Luckily that means the churchyard is spared weeping angels and other difficult-to-carve monuments, but soild oblongs and sturdy crosses abound. Having said which, this slate example caught my eye. Never come across a monumental mason putting a maker's mark on a headstone before. Mind you, Mr Vincent did a lovely job, so why not?

By this time I'd circled round to the other side of the church and was thinking of heading back. But I'd yet to get a halfway decent shot of the church itself. Tsk. Then I looked up from all the Kessels and Dunstans and Spargos and saw I had an Artistic Photo Opportunity. So, embracing the lens flare, I went for the silhouette and took a technically atrocious pic of a typical Cornish church.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Crime Figures Soar

Good news - lots of workshop time today. Bad news - nope, not tellin' ya about it. On the other hand I've got the okay on a couple of things from Mr Nicholas Blake (see previous on carpenter's stores etc), but I shall save the best for Monday (Mondays need something to sweeten them). In the meantime, anyone want to speculate on the identity of the saw in this incident? Resolution was apparently in Nootka Sound (on the coast of Vancouver Island - and yes, I had to look that up...) in April 1778 and one of the natives

"had nearly got off with a double cross cut saw, used by the carpenters ashore, which he had contrived to twist around his body, and hide under his clothes so ingeniously as almost to avoid suspicion"

Naturally I've made an educated (I'd like to think) guess but if I'm correct it does make the mind boggle a little as to how he managed it. And which way would you have the teeth pointing...?

Oh, and I just know you're all dying for further oakum-toilet paper revelations. Apparently the guides on HMS Victory claim the oakum was hung above the tables at meals for wiping greasy hands on - and then subsequently used for the aforesaid purpose. Now I can recall being quite sceptical about some of the stories those guides put about when I went round Victory many years ago, the leg pull being a favourite hobby of many a nautical type, so take that as you will. I'm certainly not speculating on it - so far every avenue of thought has ended up requiring the delete button if this blog is to refrain from making the readership heave...

Friday, October 27, 2006


Now I could tell you the latest workshop news, but Christmas looms on the horizon, a young galoot's thoughts turn to present-making and blogs have ears. So, in short, I can't. On the other hand I can tell you I now have a clean Stanley #10 bench rebate plane (and some spare parts) where there was only a clean but broken Stanley #10 bench rebate plane and a rusty but unbroken Stanley #10 bench rebate plane before. I'm really going to have make a couple of front knobs sooner rather than later though - a lovely rosewood tote currently being ruined by a flaky old stained beech knob is an abomination unto this galoot's eyes... Other than that, no matter where my thoughts turn, I find myself looking at proscribed topics. Sigh. It's a blighter being full of things to say and not being able to spill the beans for one reason or another. Maybe by Monday at least one thing may have been transferred to the allowed list? Fingers crossed and have a good weekend, y'all.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sawyer's Apprentice

Does the bi-annual replacement of the tensioning bolt on my old Elu bandsaw count as bona fide workshop time? For a change this time I had an apprentice to put me off, er, "help" - the old man's been custodian of the saw for a year and more now, so we figured he ought to learn how to do it. It's an Elu 3410 iirc - rebadged as a DeWalt these days (having been a DW before it was rebadged as Elu - what goes around comes around...) and apart from a lousy rip fence the blade tension bolt is the one serious failing it has.

The wallies at DeWally, bless 'em, elected to use a 150mm M6 carriage bolt and an ordinary nut to cope with the tension on the blade. Well it strips the thread on the bolt over time, doesn't it? About once every two years in fact. And DeWalt charge ten whole pounds sterling for a replacement. Naturally I only did that once before I learnt my lesson. Instead I did two things; first, the purchase of a connecting or double nut to help spread the load across more threads - luckily it fits easily in the tensioning knob.

Secondly, should you find yourself in a similar situation, first purchase a 150mm long M6 carriage or coach bolt. Realise the threads as provided aren't long enough so thread them a little further with the correct size of die. You can see from the defunct bolt on the left it's the "proper" threads that give up, not the self-tapped ones.

The tricky bit is dismantling the bolt from the saw without having bearings and washers cascading about your ears. The blade is removed first, then you have to undo the tensioning knob while supporting the weight of the wheel and holding the bolt up in your other hand, and ultimately balancing the small tower of washers and bearing washers on top of the spring while you remove the tensioning knob before swiftly gathering up said tower before letting the bolt slip from the wheel. Whatever you do, you mustn't let the bolt drop out before you've corralled the washers or you'll be on your hands and knees looking for them for a week. Sound complicated? Believe me, it's much worse than it sounds...

But possibly not as bad as putting it all together again... Generally I drop at least one thing as I do so - carefully feeding the washer/bearing tower piece by piece onto the bolt, gradually feeding it upwards as I also support the wheel's weight - and this time it was the tensioning knob. Usually that means dismantling everything again, bending down to retrieve the knob and starting again. Bless the apprentice - as is their purpose in life, he was there to pick it up for me! So instead of prolonged cursing it all went swimmingly first go, and the blade was tracking and the guides set up in no time. And best of all he gets to do it next time instead of me. Huzzah!

I reckon could get used to the idea of having an apprentice...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

19thC toilet paper and other mysteries

Further to my blatant looting of "Steering To Glory", I received an email from the author, Mr Nicholas Blake. Yes, trust me to be caught out being rude about a book title again - last time was David Charlesworth's... But no, your correspondent isn't about to be embroiled in legal action (at least not so far), but instead some rather interesting additional info has this way come from Mr Blake. I'm awaiting the nod or no on whether I may post most of it (better safe than sorry), but in case anyone else was as perplexed as me (hence the [?!]) as to the use of "junk axes" and "woolding nails"; apparently junk axes "were used to cut up old rope to be made either into oakum or into tows, for use as the equivalent of toilet paper." Which leads me down a whole different and disturbing road wondering about 19thC toilet paper... However... I sort of pictured all the axes that had seen better days were all kept for some purpose, "just in case". In fact I was thinking that Boatswain must have been a galoot to keep decrepit tools in his stores on the off-chance they'd come in handy, so a bit of a disappointment there. Apparently woolding nails were "used to secure the woolding rope used to support masts or yards that were either fished (broken) or made in pieces." Now that does ring a bell from one or other of the fictional escapades I've read over the years, so I'm quitely kicking myself at not remembering. But no matter. I wonder what their particular attribute was that made them especially suited for the task?

I must admit to thinking it's pretty damn cool to get personal footnotes like that, so very many thanks to Mr Blake. It gets better, but as I say, I don't want to jump the gun without checking first so let's just say I've been practicing my copperplate deciphering today...

Erm, yes... Deciphering copperplate equates to not going into the workshop I fear. Well it was raining buckets anyway - I'd have needed that boat I'm not making.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pearls before swine

Ladies and gentlemen, we have workshop time! Okay, not much and mainly of the "whoops, shouldn't have left that out all this time" tidying variety, but 'tis definitely much, much better than nothing. Naturally I feel as wobbly as a kitten subsequently, but that's not the point. To my chagrin I found the LN low angle smoother was left out, and as these modern planes seem to have a propensity to do, there's a light hint of oxidisation clouding its ductile loveliness. Makes me feel so ashamed when I let the "good stuff" suffer - what sort of caretaker of them am I, for heaven's sakes...?!

Anyway, I was thinking about my only Auriou rasp (yep, normal service is apparently resumed) and wondering if I'm the only person who finds the handles really, really uncomfortable? It's so thin my hand cramps up having to grip it too hard, the design doesn't give you a natural point to apply forward momentum with your thumb and forefinger and the end that rests in your palm? Ack, it's a slow road to stigmata (hope that doesn't offend anyone). I'm seriously considering replacing the darn thing, which I must admit I object to on a tool costing as much as they do.

Mind you, it's a good example of there being no one perfect handle design. This one, that I hate so much on the rasp, is very similar to the old Henry Taylor gouge also in the pic (and one of the few inherited tools from my grandfather that I have). Now the gouge is small and delicate and that handle just feels right for it. But then I've not been trying to push my way through large quantities of rosewood with it, am I? Perhaps I'm just too heavy-handed with the Auriou - wouldn't be surprised if it was too good for me and I'd be better off with some cheap Chinese verisons. At least the rasp hasn't rusted...

Monday, October 23, 2006


Now despite my uncharacteristic rash of bloggin' over the weekend and this wholly inaccurate rumour that I'm building a boat (although it is raining an awful lot, so maybe not such a bad idea...), most of the last three days have actually been spent asleep. No, I'm not a student and it's not my usual habit to kip about 20 hours out of every 24, so I swiftly deduce that perhaps that cold is a bit of a sly blighter and has knocked back our heroine rather more than she thought. And of course if helpfully explains the "dunnos" too - nothing like feeling off colour to give you a nasty case of navel gazing, I find. In which case, just as soon as I stop feeling like Wile E Coyote after a strenuous couple of hours chasing the Roadrunner with an Acme anvil tied to each leg, I'll be into the workshop like a young gazelle.

Well, into the workshop anyway...

Which is a cheering thought and lots better than ill-defined "dunnos", although I dunno why... (ho, ho) So in the meantime, if you could just keep the noise down? Ta. Cup of tea about 7am if you would? Cheers. Dammit, this pillow's lumpy though. Headboard's not bad though, eh? Poplar; load of 3ft lengths of 2x2 cunningly wrought into a functional albeit unshowy piece. Got some beading on it, naturally.

D'you know, I think I might be feeling better?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Carpenter's Stores

Further to the comments on yesterday's post, here's a severely edited version of the list of carpenter's stores as compiled by Captain Bayntun of HMS Milford (74) in 1809 - it seems there was some disagreement about the stores figures so he had the whole kit and caboodle documented and sent off to the Admiralty to prove his point (luckily for us). Quantities are given in Tons, Cwt, Qrs & Lbs, so I'll list 'em with four figures after each item. i.e. Auger bitts (sic) would be 16lbs of same. I'll leave out such items as old canvas, fearnought screens etc but all the tools (blacksmithing as well) and timber are all included and some of the fittings:

Copper nails
Rove and clinch
Bed bottoms
Copper sheet
Auger bitts
Tillers 3/4
Bolts, chain plate
Bolts, drawn
Bolts, drive [to drive out old bolts]
Bolts, eye
Bolts, ring
Bolts, sett [to bring planks together[?]]
Bolts, starting [also used as bolts, drive]
Chisels, cold
Drivers, for hoops on masts
Esses for shrouds [s-shaped hooks]
Hammers, clench 3/4
Cot frames
Camp forge, slice [?], hearth staff
Hammers, sledge
Hammers, uphand [two-handed, used at forge]
Hammers, hand
Hammers, bench
Hammers, riveting
Hammers, nail tool
Chisels, cold and hot
Bellows, double
Files and rubbers
Smiths' tongues
Hasps and staples
Hinges, sorts
Hooks, nail
Iron, new, of sorts
Locks, sorts
Mauls, double-headed
Nails of sorts
Pitch ladles
Saw gear
Staples, large 1/2
Ocham, black
Bars, capstan, half
Board, Elm [Boards being timber 14-18ft long, 8-9in wide and less than 1 1/2in thick]
Board, Oak
Board, wainscot [Continental Oak for panelling and joinery work, bought by the Navy Board in 1 1/4, 1, and 3/4in thicknesses]
Mess tables
Stools for ditto
Caulking tools* 1/4
Chests of sorts for stores
Deals, ordinary [deals 6-14ft long, 9in wide, not more than 3in thick]
Hen coops
Moving pantry
Plank, Elm, sorts [planks 18ft long or more, 9-10in wide, 1 1/2-4in thick]
Plank, Oak
Plank, Oak, sorts
Screws, wood, with bolt
Tables, small
Tables, wainscot
Tables, sideboard
Tillers, spare
Brushes 1/2
Black varnish
Lime, bushels [for making whitewash]
Ditto brushes
Brushes, tar, present use [present use stores were used in fitting out] 1/2
Nails, of sorts, present use
Tar, present use
Board, Elm, present use
Deals, ordinary, present use
Baulks, present use
Wedges, present use

*A set of caulker's tools is given elsewhere as:
irons, sharp, 1
horsing, 1
meaking, 1
caulking, 1
crooked, 1
treenail, 1
spike, 1
horsing, large with iron handles,1
beetle, 1
caulking mallet, 1
ladle spout, 1
hook rove, 1

Additionally, in the Boatswain's stores, we find more Black varnish; brushes, large; brushes, tar; cots; another grindstone; axes, junk [?!]; hatchets, mauls for topmasts; scrapers [for cleaning decks]; nails, woolding [?]; and commanders [large wooden mallets].

Honestly, it was a regular floating DIY warehouse come furniture store...

Anyway, if you're interested in "Nelson's Navy", I recommend "Steering To Glory - A Day In the Life of a Ship Of The Line" by Nicholas Blake from which I've filched this stuff. It's a lousy title, but the content is excellent. The only drawback is he's had to use a lot of court martial evidence so there's rather more going on in the cable tier and other dark spots than maybe was strictly true on the average day...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I see no ships

Last year it was Blues vs. Reds, fireworks, fleet reviews, you name it. This year, 'cos it's a mere 201 years ago instead of a nice round number, you'd think the Battle of Trafalgar never happened. Tsk, the fickleness eh? Ah well, plenty of public fickleness 201 years ago too (just ask Nelson - well obviously you can't. Even if he'd lived into a ripe old age you're about 170 years too late...) so plus ce change as they say. Unfortunately all too many other things haven't changed either, but luckily I don't do politics. So instead I'll take the woodworkers' perspective and raise a glass to the skilled craftsmen who turned large quantities of oak trees into the formidable feats of engineering that did their best to annihilate each other, and the poor carpenters who had to be there to repair the damage - on both sides.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I'm fairly sure I've blogged about woodworker's block before, haven't I? Not an unfamiliar feeling in most creative disciplines. With woodworking it's usually that first breaking into a new stack of timber that I find difficult. Once there's chippings in the dust extractor and a pile of new prepped boards on the bench, I'm away and will get to the end of the project in one way or another even if (hah! WHEN) there's angst along the way. With writing it's famously the blank piece of paper that's inhibiting, even to the point of writing any old gobbledegook to get oneself starting. It's the same sort of thing as writing postcards; it's only when you're down to the last 1/2" that you suddenly have more to say than can fit so you have to end up crawling up the side to get it in.

Hmm, that would work better if I could lay it out on the screen with the text crawling up the side, wouldn't it? The limitations of computers...

But woodworker's block is not an unfamiliar enemy, and it's dealt with eventually. But I don't usually go totally non-woodworking. It's not often that I'm not thinking of some woodwork-related idea or theory, enthusiatically reading the various forums and so forth. It's not often I reach the point of picking up a Woodworker annual and putting it down again, unread.

I know. Worrying, ain't it? Normality to me is being a Really Sad Case... (Nah, that's not what I meant, but it's a fair point... Anyway.)

I just can't seem to get going at all. Been in a funny mood all week now, to be honest. I better flippin' well snap out of it soon or, well I dunno. That's the problem - I dunno just about sums it up at the moment! Not been a bad week really; a couple of unsolicited tool purchasing enquiries, a little saw doctor work turned up; mysterious envelope of galootishness from BB and so forth, but nope, just can't flick the switch to "on". You know it's bad when TPTBs unexpectedly turn up with a Terry Pratchett in the hopes I'd not got it and it'd cheer me up. Yikes. It'll be an old tool on the off-chance I don't have it next.

So I've tried the go-into-the-workshop-regardless option. The tool-cleaning-aversion-therapy. The don't-think-about-it option and now the blog-your-neurosis-away treatment. (Or should that be blog-your-neurosis-back-again...?) If this doesn't work I'm in real trouble...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

'Rat fink

Not often I blog about the Woodrat really, but when you're looking at the bottom of the barrel you scrape up what you may. About a month ago I was moved to make a version of 'Ratter Extrordinaire Aldel's Universal Workholder. And lo', it was good. But I had concerns about the foam board I'd used for the runner, as mentioned here, so when Rutlands had a bit of a sale on everything without a plug, I splashed out on a length of 12mm thick slick UHMW plastic stuff sold for making routing jigs, tablesaw fences and so forth. As it happens, 12mm is just the right thickness for the job and t'was but the work of a moment on the 'Rat to run up a t-shaped piece to replace the foam board. Well worth the effort too - no more sticking but smoooooooth.

Now this stuff can be worked like a rather buttery piece of boxwood - saws, planes, the works. So I had a little play with it, while I was there, trimming a piece on the shooting board and so forth, with a vague view to a project I've had in mind for many years. I think of it as "Woodworker's Feeler Gauges" - like the engineer's variety but of more substantial sizes as would be useful for a woodworker in setting up tools. Now you can buy set up blocks, and indeed I have a set of brass discs in useful thicknesses for that sort of thing, but for setting up my beloved combination planes it'd really be more help if they came in pairs. For before and abaft the cutter, you see? Well I've not done much, but with the various thicknesses of stuff I have about the place I reckon I could get quite a good range of settings. Trouble is I tried getting clever and incorporating useful lengths and widths into the things too, and that's probably a mistake. But as a preliminary recce of the idea, I'm cautiously optimistic. But it's going to take a helluva a long time to make them all at the rate I was going...

The foam board is not as ink-on-wipe-off friendly as the UHMW unfortunately. Heigh ho. I also thought I might try out the stuff as fence material for fenced planes. I mean there's no rule that traditional tools has to mean traditional materials, is there? Next stop garolyte plane soles...*

Other than that I'm in serious "miserable crotchety old bugger" mode and inclined to pick a virtual fight at a drop of a hat. I can only conclude that this is how some forum contributors feel all the time...

*I doubt many readers will get that ref, but it might get a chuckle from at least one

Monday, October 16, 2006


I know, I know - I've been letting the blogging go recently. It's not for want of desire to blog, simply that I haven't really done anything in the workshop to speak of. Usually I'd fall back on theoretical woodworking instead, but my mind's taken up with things for a second article for the Lee Valley email newsletter (Now folks can claim I'm in their pay, and with justification - so naturally they haven't. D'oh!) Not that I don't often manage to think of something else to say when I'm working on a whittering for the web site, but there's something about getting remuneration for writing something I find horribly inhibiting. I'm so wrapped up in not falling foul of the rules and regs of exclusivity and such that I dread to let a word slip - and thus clam up completely in consequence. Silly, isn't it? Still, I've got a couple of ideas swilling about in the old brain cell, so all I need now is some workshop time to implement them.

Oh, and I found myself another tapered reamer. You look for years for one, and then two come along at once - typical. Hah, yes, and also another wad punch... Gimme a "C", gimme an "O", gimme an "L", gimme another "L"...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Still aten't dead yet

Although I'm not so sure I won't ask for a recount...

Nah, to be fair I am feeling better. Not well mind you (don't want to relinquish the sympathy too soon, after all...) but definitely less awful. Not to the point of getting into the workshop, alas, but able to lift the occasional volume of The Woodworker to my streaming eyes and make out the odd snippet of interest. 1940 is currently being perused, and I found the following:

"The Stanley Tool Co. make an ever-ready blade which is attached by two screws to a specially constructed blade holder. This arrangement fits practically all their bench planes and assures a sharp cutting edge at all times. It is a boon to the outworker who has not access to a hone or grindstone. The blades are as easy to remove and replace as a razor blade. They are put up in packets of five and six according to the type of plane they are intended to fit."

The right to look smug to the first reader who can provide the name Stanley gave these short-lived wonder blades. Although they seem to have lived longer than I thought, given the 1940 date and the dates I've seen given for them elsewhere - but maybe they just got delayed on the boat over here...

And for the saw fanatics, discussion of the purpose of the "needle test" used on saws. The theory from readers was it was to test the "set" - the noble lords of The Woodworker had doubts, so "to have an authoritative opinion we wrote to the well-known sawmakers, Messrs. Spear & Jackson, of Sheffield, and obtained the following interesting ruling:

"The test with a sewing needle is not to test the set of a saw at all; it is done to test the accuracy of the bevel filing of the teeth of a crosscut saw"

Hold it right there - did S&J actually use this thing then? Or is the "it is done" used in a loose, by-less-accomplished-saw-filers-than-us, kinda way? I have a mental picture of an apprentice saw filer finally being considered good enough to be presented with his official S&J needle... But back to the authoritative ruling:

"In bevel filing the file is held at about 45 deg. (or 60 deg. for saws for hardwood) with the blade, so that each tooth is filed to a keen edge at its outer or cutting edge, and is bevelled well back at the other side... This forms a V-shape when the saw is viewed from the end, and the needle can travel freeling down this."

But now, for me, the really interesting bit:

"It should be remembered, however, that only the best quality crosscut saws are bevel filed. [My astonished bold] Certain cheaper crosscut saws [like 'not Spear & Jackson's' one wonders, reading between the lines?] are filed straight across."

Blah, blah, explains how you couldn't get a needle down one filed like that and that basically if you had enough set to accomplish it you've got way too much set.

But folks, I'm somewhat taken aback at the cheaper crosscut being filed without any fleam thing. Have I somehow overlooked this in the past? Was it not done on cheaper saws 'cos they couldn't take the fleam 'cos of inferior steel? Or just 'cos it's harder flippin' work to get the fleaminess right so they'd charge extra? Is this exciting new evidence for people to argue about, or have I just dozed off in all the discussions and missed it before?

Tune in next week to find out!

Ah hum, sorry, got carried away there. Maybe tune in tomorrow and read the comments pointing out I was indeed asleep instead...

Monday, October 09, 2006


Alas, I am undone. Woe is me. You'll be sorry when I'm dead* Etc.

Yes, as you may guess, I'm feeling sorry for myself. What was an irritating freshening of a mild cold on Friday descended on me in force on Sunday lunchtime and I have A Cold. Yea, even unto it being Man 'Flu; not really 'flu at all, but try telling that to any bloke suffering from it... Wrapped myself up in a blanket, dived under the duvet and have been there more of less ever since, feeling (as previously mentioned) sorry for myself. For full effect read this blog entry with periodic sneezes, blowing of nose, mutterings of "damn, where are the tissues" and so forth.

Anyway, apart from that the weather this weekend was dry with hints of sunshine, so I hit a couple of car boot sales while there's still anything there to speak of. Got a handful of old woodworking mags on Sunday; Woodsmith, Wood and Woodworker's Journal, all of which are previously unknown to me. To be honest I think they'll be largely remaining unknown to me in future too. Altogther too much tablesaur stuff for this bandsaw-lovin', hand tool-totin' neander. Funny though; the bloke had them marked up at 20p each, or six for a pound. Well I found five, and paid him the pound. He raised his eyebrows and wordlessly indicated the sign. I looked at the remaining Good Woodworkings and Woodworkers of modern vintage and sadly shook my head - "don't want any of the others". I think he thought I was nuts - long-term readers may fell he has a point of course, but for other reasons...

But Saturday brought my Best Buy - in fact the only thing in the place worth bothering with. There's a character who has a deplorable habit of keeping his stock, mainly tools, in a rusting, leaking old shipping container. I don't know what state the tools are in when they go in, but when they come out they've definitely been introduced to the joys of ferrous oxide. He has most of them displayed in plastic trays on the ground, with the real dregs not even earning a tray, and the select few he thinks are worth something on a table. I have a theory that tools start out on the table, weeks go past and the effects of the shipping container are felt until they are relegated to a tray, Time moves on, and if the tool doesn't, it will eventually make it to the bottom of the social scale and the bare ground. What happens to them then, who knows? Although there are rusty stains on the ground where he usually sets up, so either someone's cut themselves and bleed to death there or the tools become so rusty they actually dissolve and return to the earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...

Anyway, occasionally there's something on the table that's worth paying the slightly inflated price for - a Marples honing guide with instructions, f'rinstance. The trays; well even insane rust remover that I am, I don't bother with the trays. As for the grounded stuff... (shudder) So anyway, I had a look, and what does my wondering eye behold? Actual shiny plated metal! Hey, a joist or corner brace by Skinner! I never, but never see those. Certainly never expected to see one in good order, that's for sure, and certainly not here. And a not insane price!

Friends, it was my duty to save that tool from the fate of another week in the shipping container. Surely you can see that?

So I did.

Already the old man has said "ooo" and "that'd be useful", so its chances of residing in the workshop for any length of time are slim. He does more boring in awkward spots than I do anyway, so I might as well accept the inevitable, clean it up and give it to him for one of his birthday presents. And what's more, he'll probably have forgotten about it by then, so it'll come as a surprise...

* The eternal cry of the wronged eight year old.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Aversion therapy

I know what you're thinking - she's slipping. Missed a day and now repeating a post. But it's not the same plane, honest, This is the other #4.5 that's been waiting about for me to clean it up. I took it all to pieces and gave it a scrub, ooo, months ago, but it's been waiting around asking to lose parts ever since. So I bit the bulet at last. Not that it can complain - it was in the toolchest so that's only, what, two and a half years ago... It's the one top left in this pic:

Not the prettiest then, and not really the prettiest now, but would make a good user I reckon. Of course I don't have time to tune it up, so I'll probably have to find a new home for it at a cut rate. Type study makes it to be a 15 - 1931-1932 - which ties in pretty well with the other Stanleys in the box iirc. What it has demonstrated to me is that my tote is considerably clunkier than it ought to be - those old rosewood totes are really incredibly elegant.

I also cleaned up the #79 side rebate I got last month, de-rusted the iron of the lignum vitae coffin smoother and found it correct size cap iron (still needs the wedge), cleaned the Ward & Payne chisel (still needs a lot of work on the back, and a new handle natch), oh and cleaned the guides of the Marples mitre box. On inspection the box isn't in any too great shape, so as I'd thought, I dug out the as-new Crown, put a quick groove in the top for the guides and set it up as my brand spanking new improved mitre box.

And I still know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Alf, this is a good deal of prevaricating about the bush - what about the saw till?"

It's aversion therapy.

I reckon if I do enough tool cleaning I'll get so fed up with the dirt, mess and general mechaniciness of the workshop that I'll be desperate to get back to the cleanliness of working wood again. Plus I get cleaned tools where before there was rust. They'll still be in the way mind you, but at least they won't leave dirty marks...

Oh, and for eager viewers of ParrotCageWatch - got a call to say the colour I'd chosen was out of stock, so three week delay. The suspense is killing me; how about you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tote-ally Crazy

Not a word vis-a-vis arrival or otherwise of cage, but the free gift I hadn't realised I was getting arrived:

Sort of appropriate get-up for a more Normite parrot, no? But with a beak like that I reckon the pliers are a bit superfluous quite frankly...

In a continuing bid to prevaricate over the saw till, more handle-making struck. At least this is clearing up a few "To Do's" on the list - this one's been waiting only about 5 years for a rear tote... A very early purchase, this #4.5, came equipped with a modern plastic handle that neither fitted nor suited it. I think it's something like a type 8 or 9, so turn of the century.

Trouble is the luscious low front knob is awful dark - possibly been treated with BLO at some point which can turn rosewood almost black. Dunno whether to refinish in the hopes it might lighten up a bit or not. Really I ought to be making the unoriginal tote darker, I know, but with that gorgeous streak of colour through it? Not perishing likely. While I was at it I figured a little cleaning up to bring out her looks wasn't a bad idea; my idea of plane cleaning has changed a bit in five years and I'm less tolerant of some patina than I used to be. It's like the phenomenom of putting away a seldom used tool "sharp", only to find it's mysteriously got blunt when you return to it. It's simply your notion of "sharp" has changed in the intervening time. May have done myself a bit of a disservice in fact; looks so sparkling now I'm wondering about an aftermarket blade and cap iron... Oh deary me.

Monday, October 02, 2006

New home for the winter

'Tis a shaming thing to look back and find I was discussing new housing for Bertie, my African Grey, as far back as May and yet only now have I actually placed the order. Naturally I've now got cold feet about it, but getting him to go in it without panicking and falling to the bottom in a tizzy will at least give me something to do with the long winter evenings. 'Cos the nights are really drawing in now; a scent of woodsmoke in the evening air instead of the whine of Flymos; classic drama on the Beeb... Sigh. I must be getting old; I dread winter more and more every year (and not just because of the classic drama). It seems such an achingly long time until the days lengthen again and everyone cheers up. Oh well, looking at it another way, winter means timber felling time, so it's not all loss. I wonder when might be a good time to talk to the Wood Guy again...?

This weekend's activities? The gavel and block was well received. Luckily the Ancient One is afraid to ruin it by banging it too hard, so no worries! And the Saw Till? Tsk, haven't even settled on any dimensions yet. So far successful displacement activity has saved me from any danger of decision-making; nothing new there then...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fashionable woodworking

"The frame is joined to the legs either by the mortise and tenon joint or by dowelling. The former joint was the old way of framing, but since the introduction of dowels the tenon has largely gone out of use among furniture makers. They consider it old-fashioned. And owing to the shrinkage of the tenon or the carelessness with which it is made, it does not seem as strong or equal to a dowel-joint."


"The top of a table may be solid or veneered. When small and cheap work is desired, it can be made of solid wood; but otherwise it should be built-up and veneered."

I've been enjoying reading the Algrove reprint of "Furniture Design and Draughting" by Alvin Crocker Nye (a name to conjure with, that one), originally published in 1907. Well the second edition was anyway. And those are quotes from it.

There's an awful lot more fashion involved in woodworking than just the furniture style of the time, isn't there?