Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Big Bash

Before we start, the purpleheart from Yandles, and a piece of Bubinga generously provided by Phil to facilitate my war against Veritas rear totes.

Now, if you're looking for coherence, I should give up and go away if I was you.

I rolled up at something to 10am to find the place All Go with the buzz of conversation and wood already being slaughtered on the lathe outside. Phil's tool emporium, er, workshop is a big garage, but even so it was tricky finding space for all my junk. Later not helped by the oh-so-brilliantly timed arrival of Phil's New Toy - a Delta 15" thicknesser. Oh boy, does he know how to gloat or what?

Anyway, after that it was all go looking at a range of tools that various chaps had brought along for an inexpert opion. Unlike the Antiques Roadshow I didn't give insurance values, just usability ones! "Newt" brought along his superb version of the TiteMark marking gauge in a fitted box. Beautiful work and a joy to see. Lots of saws of course, and luckily none of them beyond salvaging in one form or another. After all, if it all goes totally wrong you still have material for scrapers... Martin managed to flummox the Magic Book (Hand-saw Makers of Britain) not just once, but twice. Very generously he gave me one of them; this tiny back saw - even I struggle to get a three-fingered grip round it. The blade's a mere 7" long and only 11' overall.

I need to do a little more research on it to see if I can track down the name. Nothing I like better than a tool with a bit of mystery.

An extrordinary number of people turned up with things for me, which was most unexpected and very much appreciated. Chas, turner extrordinaire, had been giving some thought to a difficulty I'd been having, generously spent time and effort making me this interesting solution. See if you can guess what it's for.

I'll get to the contents of the party bag anon. But first, the saw sharpening...

I have no idea exactly at what stage of the day I looked up to find 20-odd expectant faces and was told "time for the demo" , but I know I'd already done a lot of saw-related talking. In fact I was pretty sure everyone who'd expressed an interest had already had a one-on-one about it and I was all done. Apparently not. Despite fervent prayers the floor didn't open up and swallow me either. Friends, if I managed to say anything coherent at all, it was a miracle - the chances of me of having enough wits about me to put file to saw was zero. Good chance of an excellent example of what can go wrong, mind you, but it might have put you off. Other excuses include a bench facing away from the audience (bad idea; you can't duck in time when they throw things...), not getting organised with a suitable saw from Philly's stash, and just general mutton-headedness. You can tell I wasn't "with it" 'cos I totally failed to advertise either my tools for sale or my own sharpening services...D'oh. So anyone who's a bit ticked-off at the virtual demo, well 'pologies and to be honest I'm disappointed too. Especially as I've now worked out the best way we could have done it without me just having my back to everyone all the time, as would otherwise have happened. Never buy version 1.0 they say... (Oh, and thank you to the lovely Miss Debbie Mag-, erm, Tony, for being my assistant and damn nearly busting his arm holding up the saw vice!)

Just to top it off, I only got a brief glance at all the examples of fine workmanship various folks had brought and Phil's waterstone sharpening demo (long enough to do a little heckling anyway...) but not one jot of the turning or dovetailing. And not one shaving did I make all day. Sheesh, I hope you're all going "Ahhhhhhh". I did have time to see more than one person with plane in hand exhibiting all the signs of starting some fast, downward travel though. The hilarious thing being that they didn't even know it yet.

Not one shaving was especially hard, given the box of goodies sent over by Lee Valley. Viz: Chair devils & scraper and edge trimming plane. As it happened I'd brought along one of my scrapers as "host gift" so folks were able to compare and contrast. The LV ones are nicely made, but gosh they're heavy when you're used to a wooden one. I can imagine some people will like that, but to be honest I wasn't wholly grabed. But I may have felt different about it in use. It's probably the argument for and against large and heavy vs. small and light scrub planes all over again. I'd had a tip off about the edge trimming plane, that it had an O1 blade lapped on the new wonder machine, so I had a good look. Mmmm, nice. Very nice. I can see that being very popular indeed - especially if it forces the hand of other makers to do the same... It seemed to me that a lot of members looked at and tried the edge plane with a shopping-list-addition kind of eye which would have brought a tear of happiness to R.

The thing I'd most been looking forward to was seeing the Wenzloff & Sons panel saw in the flesh. I was not disappointed. Judging by the cries of delight when folks tried the handle for size, they weren't disappointed either. Very, very nice indeed. In the inevitable "which dovetail saw" wondering, I thought it my Slope Greasing Duty to chuck the Wenzloff option into the mix, just to be helpful...

What with all the goodies on show, the tour of Philly's projects, a moment to snatch a sandwich and a cuppa... Ah yes, the refreshments and such. Fiona, Phil's missus, is a total STAR. Instead of escaping to the nearest shopping centre with Phil's credit card, there she was providing tea and food without one murmur of exasperation (well not in my hearing anyway. Goodness knows what she said when we'd all gone...). Words can not express my admiration and gratitude, except, well... she doesn't have a brother, does she...?

But Phil ought to get some kudos too. Despite entertaining some UK Workshoppers and Mr Jack Daniels 'til 3am that morning, he was there greeting, slapping name tags on and handing out t-shirts. As a demonstrator I got one with my name on it (pink and sparkly 'cos I'm a girl, I s'pose. Or maybe there wasn't an option on rusty and weird...) - if only I'd had a moment to put it on!

We all had a good rummage through his drawers too, if you'll pardon the expression, and admired his plane making. In fact I was totally taken in and thought the shoulder plane my eye had fallen on was a HNT Gordon. Turned out it was one of Phil's - really, really good. He's a talent, so he is. Imagine my delight then, when I got to the bottom of my goodie bag later that evening and found this:

Wow. 'Tis a thing of beauty and works like a champ. Just goes to show making a plane with MDF isn't necessarily a Bad Sign, eh?

So that's me done. It was great to meet everyone, and as The Management remarked when they picked me up, a testament to how well we got along that the buzz of conversation was still going full strength at 4.30 that afternoon. Everyone says it, but it's true; if you have the chance to get together with your fellow woodworkers, don't just think about it, DO IT. It's a blast.


  1. Alf,

    Good to meet at last over the w/e - shame you forgot the CD, perhaps you'd like to e-mail me the file to have a go at?

    Have you tried H. (or T.) A. Zeon & Co.?

  2. Alf, Sometimes you are too critical of yourself! This get-together was the first, there were a lot of people and lots of different interests (the main one of which was to meet one another). I wanted to pick your brain about saw sharpening and I found the tips you gave me so, so valuable. You certainly gave me enough information to give me the confidence to have a go. You did a grand job - thank you very much!

    Paul Chapman

  3. Al
    As noted, you did a fine job with your saw demo (as well as the rest of the day!!) It certainly is nerve-racking to stand up in front of a crowd of rabid woodies and talk. And you did great, so stop beating yourself up ;)
    Next time we'll all be a bit more organised. I definitely will!!!!
    There was so many memorable events and conversations it's dificult to remember them all, but I am left with a happy glow to have been part of a "good thing". You should too!

  4. Now chaps, if I wasn't critical of myself I wouldn't be me, would I? Heck, I'm critical of everyone else too, I just don't say so as often... ;~) Happy glow is in place now as per orders - or is that the effect of the glass of rosé...?

    Nick, yep, I've been looking for every permutation and no joy. I'll have a go online, but I ha'e ma doots of it ceasing to be a mystery any time soon. As for the file, I'll stick it up on my site and then any interested parties can have a play if they fancy. Watch this space (but not until tomorrow...)


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