Friday, December 21, 2007


Thought I was done for now, but then this post by Larry Williams on moulding planes caught my eye so I thought I'd draw attention to it. If you're even remotely interested in wooden planes then I'm sure it'll prove worth the reading. The more the breadth of my ignorance on the subject is brought to my attention like this, the more eager to get hold of those two DVDs by Messers Williams and McConnell I become...


It's all about focus. Focus, or rather lack of same, is why I haven't a proper completed project to my name this year. Let's face it, it's looking distinctly dodgy vis-a-vis finishing the saw till by the end of the month... But focus saw a successful raid on the local food emporium with only minor casualties this morning. A pincer movement launched at 8.30am (wince) swept up sprouts and mince pies before it with the minimum of foot-stamping and banging of head against nearest pillar. And that was just The Management... It was only when we returned home to the reward of a mince pie (purely to test the brandy butter of course - it's good, but by gum, you don't want to drive after eating any...), it was only then that we remembered all the things we'd forgotten. Heigh ho.

Anyway, for our final gamely distraction from the festive fever, the frankly bizarrely-named and darkly-animated Mr. MothBall 3, the snowy flakes. The music will drive you crackers (and totally spoiled my enjoyment of "Wombling Merry Christmas" that I had playing concurrently which is, naturally, hard to forgive...) but 'tis a nice simple premise requiring next to no investment of time from the fickle gamer. (Ooo, look, I've just seen you can turn the music off - that's better!)

And finally may I wish any readers still clinging on in the hopes of some woodworking content a Very Merry Festive Season and fingers crossed for some workshop-related blogging in 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Something of a tenuous Christmas connection to Goldminer's Holiday Haul really, but a a rather better example of the genre. My best advice is always buy the titanium rope and strength drink when offered - and purchase dynamite when it's cheap.

Gosh, advice like this could even help you in real life. If you were a goldminer. 

Other than that I am "mazed" by pulling the daughterly weight in helping with present wrapping, planning menus etc (we shall be nine in number on the 26th and there ain't no sparrow-like eaters in the Clan Alf, so knowing what food prep is needed for when is vital if all-out war is to be avoided). I'd give my right arm to nip down to the w'shop and have a refreshing view of The Saws, no chance of actually using them of course, but alas tomorrow brings the delights of The Big Shop. If you don't hear from me tomorrow you'll know I was bested in the Supermarket Trolley Demolition Derby...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Brandy Butter

Brandy butter, two batches, mince pies for the use of - done. Marzipan fruits? No chance. We were freezing our appendages off all yesterday,what with no heating and doors bracingly open for the ingress and egress of plumber, plumber's gophers and rubber hoses to facilitate the draining of the heating system. But amazingly it is all done and works, so huzzah.

In celebration let's save Christmas by athletically swinging from branch to branch of a large fir tree in order to fix the star at the top in Merlin's Christmas. And to think I find just making marzipan fruits too much effort - shame on me... Rather harder to accomplish than it may appear at first glance, and somewhat addictive. Groan as once more your plucky little elf lands head first in the snow, wince as the jaunty Jingle Bells music loop goes round yet again... Yes, probably best with the speakers turned off in fact.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quick release vice

Having to move a little earlier in the day than usual - would you believe the plumber's coming again? The tap in the kitchen requires replacement, but in addition the old man's taken it into his head to have two radiators replaced, including the one right here in the inner sanctum. So I shall be forced to neglect office-y type tasks in favour of festive domestic ones. Viz: brandy butter and possibly marzipan fruits. But only if Victor does the kitchen tap first. Anyway, fingers crossed that it all goes smoothly; no, don't laugh...

So our game for today? Well I'm going to confess to a small vice (yes, another one); I have something of an addiction to the genre known as "Room Escape Games". In brief, you find yourself locked in a room and have to find and combine items, work out or discover codes and find your way out. Traditionally there's usually at least one safe to open (often containing something no sane person would bother to put in a safe, like a hammer), and a wastepaper basket to look in (or under). Some examples are just plain weird, I must admit; but possibly something of a window on other cultures. Many are Japanese and either tend to involve spirits and other mystic fings; or else overdose the cuteness a bit with cuddly toys, cats or other furry animals. Russian ones do rather tend to be violent. Naturally the festive season brings out a rash of themed versions of existing series as well as some one offs, one such being the imaginatively titled Christmas Escape.  Of Japanese origin but reasonably logical I think, challenging to get all the parcels but still escapable if you don't, and most importantly - in English!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Turkey fling

In my continuing quest to lure you all away from festive tasks, another game. As it's Monday morning something a little less taxing on the brain seems called for I think - fling dat turkey! I can't help but wonder who decided that this should be listed under "sports". Possibly the same person who thought the Olympics needed synchronized swimming?

May not be suitable for vegetarians, animal lovers or anyone with their little grey cells still intact...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Russian Cream

So bicycles are obviously far too serious a subject to be flippant about - I forget there seem to be a disproportionate number of serious cycling dudes amongst woodworkers. You should see my bike - it's actually worse than that freebie. At least I think it is; it may be fossilising by now considering how long it's been since I saw it last...

But enough of that - what d'you know of Russian woodworking practices? No, I don't either. But as a side-effect of asking about the "B" branded Russian copy of the Record 043 mini grooving plane a helpful soul on Woodnet not only translated the front of the instruction manual but also came up with this Russian site on tools. In case your reading of the cyrillic alphabet is as non-existant as mine, you can suffer the horrors of a rough Google translation here. So now there's no excuse for not knowing your Шпунтубель from your Калёвка.

I know it sounds pathetic and sad case material to say it, but the internet really is incredible. Here is little me, one day trip to Boulogne-Sur-Le-Mer to my name as far as foreign travel goes, and I innocently think it'd be nice to have a web page on the Record 040/043. Big deal. But as a result I've corresponded with numerous helpful folks and dipped my toe into waters concerning both Australian and Russian tool manufacturers that would have otherwise been as a closed tool chest to me. Extraordinary really.

Anyway, the festive season approaches and the newspaper tells me that in consequence there will be next to no work done in offices all next week. So what's new, say the non-office workers... Instead the diligent workforce will gossip, go to parties and generally slack off as though it was the end of the summer term and they'd just finished their exams. In order to help you get into this non-productive mood I think a few games could be in order, so first up the Christmas Lights. Just like the real thing, it's easy to end up with just one damn bulb that refuses to light...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You can never have too many bikes

Clamps are not exciting purchases in my opinion. A necessary evil and as we all know an on-going one 'cos a woodworker can famously "never have enough clamps". But Matthew at Workshop Heaven has done his best and actually made me go and look at the latest special offer. Yep, a free gift of one whole, grown-up, gent's mountain bike when purchasing four clamps. You can literally "clamp 'n' go" (ho ho). Alas, even viewing it as a £175 bike with four free clamps I don't think I can quite squeeze it into the budget, but hey, I did look.

Perhaps it'll start a trend? Four of Screwfix's cheapest clamping devices: one free inner sole to cushion your feet (or one foot anyway). Or free sports car with every four Holtey planes... :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I take it I can gather from the comments box that I'm not the only one with issues viz-a-viz that cabinet then? I wasn't even going to mention the poly... Also I don't seem to be alone in my dissatisfaction with woodworking mags either. I used to get really annoyed when people described them as "comics", but my heart has much hardened.

Anyway, that small oasis of woodworking delight that is the occasional copy of a decent woodworking book for sale in the Truro flea market came up trumps again, and in consequence I've been perusing "Tables" by Anthony Guidice. Now I was a tad scathing about Mr Guidice's "Seven Essentials of Woodworking" - principally 'cos I reckon it contains enough baloney to open a small New York deli - but this Tables book has designs that actually appeal to me. Yeah, okay, so I've actually made a couple like the ones therein so that's inevitably gonna appeal, but the delicately-constructed hallway table and the display table are both projects I can actually see myself making (and finding a place for chez Alf). That's practically unheard of for a book of projects as far as I'm concerned, so something of an accolade.

I confess I'm also on the preparatory lookout for a "proper" project; number one nephew has signed up for a ball and chain in July next year and obviously I'd like to make something to help add to his problems as he embarks on matrimonial bliss. Hah! I know what you're thinking - it'll only be a burden once I've actually finished it, so he's probably safe until at least their second anniversary... 

Friday, December 07, 2007

New technology bad, old technology good

Lessee; excuses, non-blogging for the use of. 

Tuesday: PJ, small but aggressive Senegal parrot celebrates his tenth hatchday. Thus quality parrot - owner - bleeding finger time required. Actually he hasn't bitten me for a while, which is in some ways worrying...

Wednesday: Take a technological leap into the unknown and purchase a "set-top box" in order to receive digital television. Amazingly it works - except I still can't get Channel 5 which is the one with the cricket highlights. Bum. It's somehow ironic that this future of television allows me to catch up with television from the '60s (e.g. The Champions), '70s & '80s (The Two Ronnies), '90s (pretty much everything it seems, but helpful to brush up on one's Canadian with Due South eh?) plus whatever was on Channel 4 only an hour ago. Truly mankind has invented an amazing thing - boredom.

Thursday: I'll get back to you with a plausible excuse when I think of one. It might have been Doctor Who... 

Today: And here I am. Rejoice. Or not, as the mood takes you. Seeing as there was a power cut half way through composing this blog entry you're lucky I'm here at all.

And what do I see? Possibly the most interesting thing to come from Lie-Nielsen in some time - and a rather more reason to invest in Larry Williams' DVD. I mean not wanting to make moulding planes is one thing, but resisting making them when there are ready-tapered blanks for the irons on the market is another matter. If things go on like this it's going to be so much like the good old days we'll be able to buy wooden plough plane depth stops off the shelf... Mind you a three year lead time would possibly better suit my rate of conversion from "would like to do" to "start" on projects, never mind completion.

Also, thanks to a blog reader, and just for once being the first to respond to a Free To A Good Home post, I've also been renewing my acquaintance with Fine Woodworking. The reader's gallery stuff is of amazing standard and just the sort of unattainable (for me) inspiration that  used to subscribe to FWW for. Alas, if only the rest of the content would take its lead from that. There are a few flashes of joy, but I don't find I'm kicking myself for no longer having a sub which is partially comforting and partially ruddy depressing. Anyone else think the fine furniture grade tool cabinet in the Tools & Shops issue was horribly let down by the presence of so many power tools and accessories? Perhaps that's just me... ;-)

Monday, December 03, 2007


Another Monday, another opportunity to recount the woodworking deeds of the weekend, erm, goes begging...

Yes, you guessed it; no deeds to recount. I grow a trifle weary of this year, I must admit. It's not even close to Her Maj's "annus horribilis" but it's doing its proletariat best. The workshop is in reasonable shape to actually get used, the necessary materials for the albatross that is the saw till door project are there and merely await some attention, gorgeous saws practically hammer on the door and ask if I can come out to play - but no, the dreaded lurgy has not quite done with me yet and I spend would-be workshop time asleep instead. Gott in himmel.

On the plus side there's plenty of opportunity for the blood to gallop to my brian unhindered by gravity so perhaps I'll end up terribly brainy? Knowing my luck it'll all head for my feet instead...

On a woodworking note. Well, maybe a collecting note, I notice the second "Stanley Little Big Book" is now available. The first one covers the planes - and considering its truly diminutive size does it incredibly well; this one seems to do the rest, and in colour too. Yeah, okay, so one found its way into an order... As ever all sorts of other appealing goodies have made an appearance on LV's website and a mortal is hard-pressed to be sensible. A dozen nailbrushes is sensible, isn't it? 

Mmm, no, I wasn't convinced either. While it may be technically "my" order there's actually quite a few requests here and there from others which makes for something of an eclectic mix. Heaven help me if The Management work out how to browse the gardening section...

Oh, and I should probably add that I'm not in the habit of placing a fresh order just as soon as the last one is safely gathered in. The saws do actually date from August, in my defence. A flimsy defence perhaps, but defence it is.