Monday, February 27, 2006

Want - no, Urgently Needed: Additional Bookshelf

Hmm, so is the criterior for craftmanship a question of taste? Semantics? Even the few opinons in the comments suggests to me those three criterior are a bit ropey and too open to misunderstanding - you can all give your opinion on that one now if you fancy.

Had to totter into that commercial mecca - the "City" of Truro - this morning. Instead of the usual Tuesday?! Gasp. The world will shortly spin off its axis in consequence, but before it does, I actually found a woodworking book in a charity shop! In fact that's so unusual it'll probably hasten the axis toppling... The Woodworker Book of Joinery; an eclectic mix of articles from The Woodworker (dated 1990, largely late 80s articles I'd guess - very like the FWW Best Of format) - forward by the then editor. Yep, Nick Gibbs. I'd forgotten that he'd edited The Woodworker; 'tis an incestuous business it seems. A quick flick through revealed a piece by "apprentice" Colin Eden-Eadon - ed of F&C now of course, plus a couple of early articles by David Savage. The latter should be on his website, but the link takes you to the later batch. Of no interest to Philly; they're concerning hammer veneering. Anyway, on Amazon yours from £8.50. Mine for 50p... Meep meep meepity meep meep.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Drowning and Anchoring

Further to the Plane Party I told you about here, some extremely drool-inducing pics have wound their way onto the web courtesy of PWW via Ron Hock here. Don't drown yourselves... Is it just me who thinks Chris S and TLN look disturbingly similar here? It's not just the waistcoats, either... Sigh. Looks like they all had a pile of fun.


Too bad Karl Holtey and Ian Dalziel couldn't make it, but they seem to have found solace in each other's company instead. I'm happy to report Ian is much fired-up after his visit so I'm sure we can expect some luscious planes to result. Gotta keep the fine traditions of infill planemaking in this country up to speed with these newcomer Colonials.

Me, I've been a bit under the weather this week; with that and the chilly temperatures... well, go on, you guess how much progress I've made in the workshop... Oh well, got round to making up a page of info on the Record 040/043 and their derivatives at last, so not a total loss. Although maybe I should have laid out the info in a less conversational manner - but I was trying not to tread on the virtual toes of a couple of existing pages that go a little into the #043. Cleaned up the main Boat Anchor page a bit too; reinstating the links to Tooltrip which are now live again. Really I need to fill out the Lewin page with a few pics next; can't add much information 'cos there simply doesn't seem to be any! You'd be surprised how many enquiries I've had about the Lewin - mainly concerning value.

Hah, literally just looked up from typing this to see a Blackcap on the fat ball that hangs on the myrtle bush in front of my window.
First not-a-sparow-or-a-tit kind of bird that's visited it. Kewl.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

What is craftmanship?

Unexpectedly I received a copy of Traditional Country Craftsmen by J Geraint Jenkins in the post yesterday. Well I say unexpectedly, but actually my aunt (for she it was who sent it) had asked if I'd be interested - some time before Christmas. Naturally I'd forgotten all about it. It's galootish in the extreme; bodging, trug-making, wheelwrighting, blacksmithing and, of course, chair making. Happy me. Alas, despite the obvious Welshness of the author (Geraint Jenkins? Welsh? No kidding?!) the chairs are very definitely High Wycombe Windsors. Never mind, it's still a darn good read. In fact I have a strong feeling I've read about it recently; perhaps in JB's column? Blessed if I can remember.

Anyway, one bit early in the Introduction I thought might be of interest to The Reader. The question put is "What is craftmanship?" The author reckons there are three things necessary:
  1. The craftsman is able to marry beauty and utility. He is able to combine good taste and usefulness.
  2. The true craftsman does not depend on complex machinery and equipment to complete his work.
  3. The true craftsman is not only able to work in an ancient tradition, but he is able to build on the foundation of history. The past provides a solid basis for his work.
Interesting he slips (steps up?) from "the craftsman" to the "true craftsman" there...

I'm not sure I agree with these criterior, despite it being music to the ears of the Galootish Soul. Not infrequently I find myself looking at a completed piece and thinking how sad that such obvious skill and, yes, craftsmanship should result in something so hideous. I regret to say the cover chest on April's PWW resulted in just that reaction. And yet a quick flick through the article suggests there's plenty of craftsmanship gone into its making, and it looks a fairly useful piece of furniture to boot.

Point two, well I can see what he's getting at there and agree. That's why I shall never aspire to be a "true craftsman" - I like my gadgets and such. At least at the moment. But I thought the router was the be-all and end-all of woodworking once upon a time, and that changed, so who knows? Heck, do I not now own an Axe?! Anything's possible...

Building on the foundation of history? Well building on it is good. Being shackled by it, less so, IMO. I don't know which camp that leaves me as described in Chris S's editorial in April's PWW (again): "the people who insist that we must stand on the shoulders of the old masters, and those that are happy to kick the old masters in the shins to find an easier, faster and more accurate way to build furniture"? I'd hope a little bit of both. All through the book (so far) "no longer to be found", "last of the ..." and so forth keeps cropping up again and again. Stagnate and you risk extinction. Striving to do better, faster, easier is what's got the human race where it is now - it's what we do. Yeah okay, so it's also got us in the mess we're in now, but you can't have everything...

On the whole I find myself reminded of the comment Elizabeth Bennet makes in Pride & Prejudice when Darcy and the Bingley sisters (that well-known Motown group...) have reeled off all they'd expect to see in "an accomplished young lady".

"I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder at your knowing any."

Maybe I just have very low expectations? Anyway, got me thinking which is No Bad Thing - and has the bonus of rarity value too...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Eh, what's up, doc?

Joy. The email's back - more or less. At least I think so, but I'm starting to have doubts... Instead the website's gone AWOL. I'm a long way from being a happy bunny.

But talking of bunnies, any other Bugs Bunny fans out there? Couple of free ones for your entertainment here. I'm also cheered by being able to see a Cary Grant film I thought was going to be a closed book, er, film to me forever. Not that I've watched it yet. Might be I'd have been better off not seeing it, if it's very cringe-worthy...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No New Messages

Ack. Perishing 'puters. Just about coping with connection troubles and now I'm not receiving email. None of it. Nadda. Zilch. Zero. And I don't know why. I feel all alone... So if you've fired off some vital communiqué, have heard nothing but nevertheless had the presence of mind to say to yourself "Self, I'll just check Alf's Blog before I start damning her name to all corners of the globe", well now you know. It's at times like this that I fully realise just how much I don't know about this kind of thing...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sculpture and painting

Someone put me out of my misery; which tip of mine got published this month? I'm sick of these free gifts on GWW 'cos the darn thing's cocooned in plastic and I can't have a sneeky peek to find out... And they don't tell you on the voucher, dammit.

Anyway, made some tiny, infinitessimal progress on The Seat - see if you can Spot the Difference... But good news, 'cos the dent in the front turned out to be not so bad and was eliminated in next to no time. Huzzah. Don't think I can put off getting out the sander and donning the dust mask for much longer though, which is something not to look forward to. If I'm daring enough to look ahead at least the legs should involve some old fashioned hand plane use, so maybe that'll get me back on track.

Bevel-up planes have been rearing their ugly heads for discussion again. I see Chris S has something on them in the Woodworking magazine Blog (and seems to have stopped accepting comments too - coward! ). The three finger/four finger grip is something I've taken a while to get used to as well. I can't say I like it much even now, to be honest. Ah, the irony of it though. The LV MII rear tote is, so I'm reasonably reliably informed, based on the grip of a power drill. A power drill, if you think about it, is the
archetypal example of the three finger grip, like wot you can't do on a bevel up plane without your forefinger waving loose in the air like a wind sock in a stiff breeze. D'oh! Funny, I couldn't think why it felt more comfortable during testing when I did that until I found out the power drill thing later. Okay, yes, I did feel a little smug that I'd "spotted" that if you must know...

Finally, I was dragged off to see the exhibition of Turner's work in the Southwest at the Tate in St Ives on Saturday. It confirmed me in two things, no, three:
  1. I don't like Turner and he couldn't paint a recognisable tool for toffee.
  2. There is currently no greater concentration of pretentious twaddle to be found anywhere in Cornwall than in St Ives. Regretably that looks like changing and pretentious twaddle will shortly spread over the whole county...
  3. Triangles of canvas painted lime green simply can't compete against the genuine beauty and artistry of the surroundings. Lose the con artists and put in more windows!
Just to top my misery, it was a beautiful bright morning and we drove right past the door of the car boot sale without going in. Pah. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed exhibitions before now (one that sticks in the mind was Paul Nash's work during WW2 at the IWM some years ago) but this one didn't make me think, didn't teach me anything and just made me feel I was wasting a perfectly good hour I'd never have again.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Problem loading page...

Ack, the unusually dry winter we've been having - up 'til now - had lulled me into a false sense of security. A little brisk breeze and, more disastrously, rain and the 'net connection has been dropping off with more frequency than a drunk trying to walk a high wire. Pesky damp string is the bane of my life; couldn't get anything done at all. Merde. Only just been able to send off a couple of emails in the few seconds the connection's been on, so anyone reading this and wondering why the silence, now you know. If you are reading this obviously I managed to catch a window in which to post this too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Vote-, er, Tools For Women!

'Tis a funny old world, and no mistake. Galoots far and wide are carefully studying a hand cream commercial, purely because it features some hand tool use. Desperate or what? Mind you I thought that bench was a bit low for her, and a dual station Scandanavian one too, I notice. And no wonder her hands were sore, trying to plane a log...

Look, I have an excuse; I'm the target audience.

I also seem to be the target audience for this query too. Have I mentioned how much I hate gender division? In woodworking it's just crazy; it's not like there are enough of us to start sub divisions anyway. It's a slow day and I'm trying not to think of the itchiness about my neck from the haircut, so some answers of a less-than-serious variety (before some bloke gets there first):

1. If you're a woman, how did you become interested in woodworking?
I was looking for the Home Shopping Channel and saw a hunky guy with a saw, so I stopped to look.

2. What types of projects do you tend to build?
Wardrobes and places to keep shoes.

3. What types of tools do you own?
Nail file, curling tongs, the usual.

4. Where do you do the majority of shopping for tools and materials?

5. Are you in a woodworking club? If so, what's the ratio of men to women in your club?
99-1. Just right in fact...

6. How much money do you tend to spend per year on your woodworking projects? (sorry if this question is a bit too personal)
Only what's left over after the sales

7. How old are you? (again, sorry for being so personal. perhaps a "range" would suffice here -- i.e. 18-25, 26-35, 36-45, etc.)
A gentleman wouldn't ask.

8. What TV woodworking shows do you enjoy?
New Yankee Workshop.

Just kidding.
9. Finally, would you enjoy watching a woodworking show that featured a female host/woodworker as opposed to a male woodworker?
No, because I'd worry about her breaking a nail...

... in her nail gun.

Want to explain the growing popularity of woodworking amongst women? Easy. They keep seeing all these new tools lying around unused in the garage and figure somebody might as well use them...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Perish on Windswept Crags

As you may have gathered from the comments box, the answer was "In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags". Of course, if you could read the post title you'd have worked that out anyway...

No woodworking progress to report I fear, but a little further progress getting some of the various projects onto my website. Considering those are just the lengthy documentated ones maybe I get more done than I think? Next step is probably to get the tool cleaning/restoring/using stuff up with a menu of its own; at the moment altogether too much is looking dangerously like proper woodwork...

And one of the things I couldn't tell you about yesterday? This. I've seen some pics. It's an eye-opener, I tell you. What I wouldn't have given to be a fly on the wall... Funny, couldn't think why I was drinking so much water today and now I realise - it's a result of all the drooling yesterday.

Oh, and just a word of warning; tomorrow is Haircut Day again. I'll be both literally and figuratively "prickly", so cross me not on the 'morrow!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Si hoc legere scis, nimium eruditionis habes

Lots of things today that I'd like to tell you, but I can't. Bad luck.

However, a modicum of further progress on the Seat of Learning. Enough to make me go "ow" anyway. And then "blast", because out of nowhere a ruddy great dent has appeared on the front edge - exactly where it won't be naturally removed during the normal course of events. I'm am not happy. Certain people claim they "never touched it", but it looks like a "I'll just push this back out of the way a bit, oh what's that stopping it, I'll just shove a bit harder then" kinda mark to me... I've not taken a pic; it's too depressing.

But still, progress. It's not going to be a particularly deep seat I don't think, but then I never aimed for it to be so that's okay. I've still got to get to grips with the front edge either side of the pommel, but once that's done I shall enslave myself to the sander and hope that can solve all my problems. I don't like doing it, and I was going to shun it totally as I usually do, but using a card scraper is just not going to be an option really, is it? Looks kinda thick in the picture, doesn't it? Hmm, might have to worry about that for a bit now...

Finally, from a list of Useful Latin Phrases for Everyday Use, you may find the following handy if there's a trog with an ASBO near you:

Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem.

I think it may need a little practice to get it rolling off the tongue with the necessary fluidity, but worth the effort I feel. In case you can't be bothered to search for the translation, I'll reveal all tomorrow...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Thumb and thumber

To the optimist currently residing in Durham getting more education that can be good for him, I say "plenty of time, my posterior".

Today I went to have a good go at making some progress on the Beech From Hell and hit a teeny weeny little problem. Almost immediately my thumb joints protested; before I'd even got to the point of realising I'd forgotten to take the camera down to the workshop with me. 15 or so minutes in and I could barely touch tip of forefinger to thumb, things had swelled up alarmingly on my right hand and it hurt like hell if I tried to so much as pick up the spokeshave. The left just hurt. I stopped and spent all the France/Ireland game (exciting but odd) and most of the Italy/England one (Italy are getting good, eh?) nursing some ice and it eventually subsided a bit. Ibuprofen helped too...

It's not a new phenomenon; any long period of gripping small items has been causing trouble for a couple of years now but I've learnt to work round it by and large. But I had totally failed to realise what a strain such intense use of spokeshave and travisher would cause and I simply don't see a hand tool way to work around it. The real bummer is it starts up again straight away, so not only do I go "ow" immediately (which isn't exactly conducive to wanting to get on) but that 15 or 20 minutes encompasses everything; moving clamps, sharpening the tools midway, and anything I do afterwards like, f'rinstance, making a start on the legs or sticks. That's all the time I'm getting before I can barely do anything at all. The thumbs are, well, vital. But at 15 to 20 minutes progress a day this is going to take a long time. I'm not at all a happy bunny.

But on the plus side, what progress I did make revealed that the mutilated spokeshave lends itself very well to fairly rapiding hogging on wood cross grain either side of the pommel, so the vandalisim was far from being in vain. And it's looking even more seat-like. I'll try and remember to get a pic - of the seat, not the thumb. The thumb is very boring; no exciting colours or anything...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Other Items > Accessories>

Curiostity of the Week

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lie-Nielsen Bottle Opener!
Fed up with dentist's bills caused by the careless wrenching open of Buds using your front teeth? Get the ultimate accessory for the woodworker who has everything; you too can grasp an unclad young lady, cast in nickle silver, and open your beer.

I'm really looking forward to the version "for her"...

On an unrelated note, for Firefox users, if you've not already got it I heartily recommend the extension undoclosetab. It's already saved me a heap of grief. N.B. You may have to download it from here if you can't get it to work from the "proper" link.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fighting on the beeches...

So on Monday it was time to cut the shape of the seat. A decision had to made; the John Brown method of cutting out the whole shape? Or the Drew Langsner way of just cutting out the front at this stage. I decided to go with the primary source and do a JB. Someone remind me not to leave it so long before fitting a sharp blade on the bandsaw next time, would you? Knife throught butter instead of rubber chicken through granite is a big improvement.

Spokeshave to fair up the curve; the Veritas proved to be the most effective shave for this job. And the improved handles are worth their weight in gold IMO. The round ones would have given me no end of grief I reckon. The drawknife was a non-started from the get-go. That beech is just so darn hard...

Then to lighten the look of the seat, a chamfer underneath. I had to consult DL for this info, and went with 1" in at the sides and back and 2" in at the front. 5/8" deep, or was it 3/8"...? Whatever it said anyway. If you're insane enough to try this for yourself you really want to buy the book anyway! Naturally you all know why you want to use a pencil gauge rather than a marking, cutting or wheel gauge to mark up chamfers. It's a mistake you only make once at any rate...

Dunno why, the ways of cutting tools are hard to fathom sometimes, but my apple shave made easily the best fist of hogging off the chamfer in reasonably quick time. Again, the drawknife was just a struggle and not worth the effort. In Kingshott terms, the spokeshave was taking off "shavings thick as a soldier's belt" - possible only a dress belt, but reasonably substantial anyway...

The transition from the 1" to 2" chamfer width may need a little tweaking still, but the Veritas again proved to be able to do a good job and the more-or-less-finished chamfer pleases me at any rate. (Which is rather a JB thing to say - better read someone else for a bit maybe...) But it does look more seat-like, which is rather exciting.

However, whether it will prove to be a mistake cutting the seat shape at this stage, well time will tell. The next stage is the inshave, or in my case more gouge and travisher, to further shape the seat. But that's to come. I haven't been in the workshop for nearly tree dace and the momentum has dropped off more than somewhat.

Oh, and I still ache...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Saddle up

Tsk. This week's gone somewhat pear-shaped so far, so progress has come to a grinding halt - as has Blogging. But let's bring everything up-to-date.

Saturday saw me taking the plunge and starting on the saddling. First I drew round my template to mark the size and shape. Then 2" in from that to deliniate the rim where the sticks will go - eventually. I hope. Then 2" in from that to indicate the "adze" area. I debated at length whether to do a JB and cut the seat to shape first, but in the end went with DL instead. At this stage anyway.

I didn't use an adze of course.; enter the gouge and mallet instead. I started in the centre, and then realised I might have fouled up the pommel with my first cuts. D'oh. Looking again I'm fairly sure I haven't, but I altered my approach to avoid it just to make sure. The gouge was acting like a champ, but I soon remembered why I don't carve; I'm lousy at removing the the stuff I don't want. Much better at adding the stuff I do.

After a lot of mallet work and considerable returning to a honing-soap-charged MDF wheel to fettle the edge of the gouge, it started to look like something. I confess I placed it on a handy low surface and tried it out for comfort. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

By way of practice, I went so far as to use the mutilated #51 and travisher on the supposed "adzed" bit, just to try them out. The travisher is brill; the #51 less so... All that took me an inordinately long time, I fear, and I knew my unaccustomed self was going to hear all about the mallet-wielding on Sunday if I did any more.

So instead I finished cleaning up the Millers Falls spiral ratchet screwdriver. Not a good pic, but Picasa isn't playing ball tonight to help me edit it... The plating had to go from the shaft, which was a bit of a shame, but on the other hand I have no objection to the brass showing. My other two older Yankees have similar scars of battle, aka "don't look now but your brass is showing". Naturally I couldn't resist polishing it (how could the daughter of a Naval gunnery offficer and granddaughter of a Royal Marine be otherwise?) but it'll tarnish just nicely in no time. The handle had to be sanded right back, but I had a brainwave and used some very old Rustins red "Colour Glaze" on it which, with a little wax to cut back some of the newness, has given rather an effective worn-but-clean look.

Sunday morning I woke up and thought "hey, I'm not aching like crazy! Cool". By the time I'd dealt with the parrots and eaten my breakfast I was conscious of a dull ache in my forearm. By the end of washing up my breakfast gubbins I was going "Ow" and deciding the workshop wasn't for me that day. I simply don't get the mallet time on the clock in the usual run of things to be used to it. But on the plus side I did a lot of tidying of the website that's been needing attention for months instead. Nothing spectacular, but irritating housekeeping that takes time but will reap rewards in the future. I still really need to do something about toolchest pages though...

Monday. What did I do on Monday? Oh yes, I know. But the pictures are still in the camera and Picasa isn't playing ball tonight... Tomorrow, maybe.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My aches have aches...

I ache like crazy in places I didn't even know I had and I'm not done yet. I'll fill in all the gory details later in the week but after a marathon website update session I'm all typed out at the moment. You'll have to make do with this teaser...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Not the daily grind

Okay, don't throw stuff; not at me anyway... No chair progress to report 'cos I was reminded that I was supposed to have given my wholely unqualified opinion on something and I hadn't done it yet. So I started to do that instead - ain't guilt a wunnerful motivator?

As I was doing that, and the hollow grind I was doing went exceptionaly smoothly, I thought I'd share a couple of pics in case it might be helpful to someone out there. The first is the grip I've taken to using for grinding. It's perverse of me, but ever since RL came up trumps a couple of weeks ago with a replacement alignment pin for the one that I lost from the blade holder/clamp, I've not used the blade holder/clamp again. I'm sure I will, when the next chisel needs a regrind probably, but for plane blades freehand has become my preferred method. Bear in mind that I can only use one hand, the other being occupied with the cranking, so it's only come about after lots of practice. The most useful thing is my forefinger can tell me if things are getting warm long before any damage can be done. If I start jumping up and down, sucking said digit and going "ow, that burns" I know I should stop... Notice the tidy work area in the background.

The wheel is a coarse one and the grind stops just short of the edge to further help in avoiding burning. You can probably see the old honed bevel in the pic. The whole white/pink/ruby wheel thing is best left for turning tools, IMO (I do have a ruby wheel for the powered grinder by the lathe). The coarser the wheel the quicker the grind and the less heat you generate; the finish is unimportant because the stones provide the edge, the grinder just needs to remove metal quickly. Probably why I just don't see the point of the Tormek for planes and chisels. But I do like a hollow grind, especially on a thick blade like this, because it makes honing so easy. Rest the toe and heel of the bevel on the stone, rock forward slightly, 6 or 7 passes across a fine oilstone and you have an edge (no, it's not A2 - that takes a few more passes...) In fact it was so quick I started to worry that the blade was soft and the edge wouldn't stay long , but I needn't have worried. Of course it doesn't always go as smoothly as that, and sometimes I wonder how I could ever think I knew how to grind and hone, but when it does all click like this you just want preserve the moment in a little box and take it out to look at it when things don't go so well.

Or is that just me...?

The decision to be good and do what I was supposed to came before the postman arrived this morning, and it became a difficult promise to keep when I opened a parcel to find, entirely unexpectedly, a proper travisher, all ready to go. Indirectly I have JB to thank for it, so thank you JB, but more importantly, CS. It will be put to good use and documented within these very pages, whether you can stand it or not... I did sneak in a little play with it and managed to make shavings - which is encouraging. The curve is greater than my Frankenstein attempt, so I think they'll compliment each other nicely. But I'm starting to wonder if my dubious thumb joints are going to be up to the strain. Heigh ho; no pain, no gain.