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.