Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Compliments of the Season

Dashing in to wish the loyal (and much-neglected) reader a Merry Winter Festival Of Choice. Let's hope 2009 will see me getting my woodworking self in gear rather than stuck in neutral, eh? Happy Woodworking, folks.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting a handle on it

A tiny update to the Veritas Dovetail Saw blurb. BugBear got all excitable with the images of the LV and LN handles and came up with this:

He's kindly given permission to use it, so I have. The red line is the Veritas and the blue the LN. It's a very small difference, isn't it? It's interesting though; when I had a couple of prototypes to try, the difference in those was apparently only 5%, which doesn't sound like much, and yet the contrast was noticeable. It's a lesson to us handle meddlers; spare the rasp and don't spoil the handle. Try a file instead.  ;)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sincerest form of flattery

Now is it me, or is there a certain amount of déjà vu going on in the plane world at the mo'? The new Stanley planes I think I've already muttered about - Chris Schwarz does it better here. But I think these offerings recently spotted in the Tilgear Winter Offers flyer may be new to anyone outside Tilgear's very limited ken. i.e. Most of the known world.

Look at all familiar to you? There's more (prices plus VAT, whatever percentage that is this week):

Well, well, well, sez I to myself when I saw them. China? Or India? Place your bets. Now you could argue that LN wasn't entirely guiltless concerning a certain amount of flattery in reproducing the Stanley originals in the first place (them and a few dozen others over the years!), but this is extracting the Michael to a ridiculous degree. If I was within reach of Tilgear's emporium, I'd be over there in a trice to take a look and ask some searching questions; I imagine the quality of castings, machining and so forth is sadly lacking at those prices... The really worrying thing is how many unscrupulous dealers (probably on de 'bay) will employ some economy with the truth in order to try and pass off these low cost copies as the Real Deal - and how many people will get taken in. It'll certainly add an extra requirement for caution when looking for secondhand LN bargains. You have been warned.

ETA: On more careful examination, the edge plane seems to be rather more Veritas than LN. That's nice; good to know these rip-off merchants are pursuing an equal opportunities policy... :-/

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coupla pertinent blog links

Not usually one to link directly to other blogs, but both of these seem on topic for our recent discussions. First, the serious:

Chris Schwarz extracts some further info from el Presidente on the block planes' genesis. Hey, I'd have done that too, if it wasn't for the fact a) I'd ask silly questions, and b) he's too busy trying to guess what my middle initial stands for. No, I don't know why. Must be some sort of unusual executive stress relief - find something else to get stressed about... Don't tell him, but he'll never get it ;-)

On a less serious note, Mitchell has done what many of us may have envisioned - put wheels on the NX60. I can see Lewis Hamilton driving that in next season's F1 championship.... But Mitchell, is that a powered drill press in the background of that perplexed guy's workshop? Tsk. I'm shocked to my core... (Proper job, matey - love it!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Dear me; here I am again. The desire to muse seems to have overtaken me, and as that was the point of the blog...

So the dovetail saw and block planes then. It's been most interesting to read the varied reactions to both on the various woodworking fora. The saw I expected to divide opinion; the reaction to the planes was more of a surprise. Quite honestly I'm amazed how many people don't like the looks. I'm also sad to see some folks seems to have forgotten what Lee Valley Veritas is about and seem to think the sizzle may be disguising an absence of steak. Given the improvements implemented, that's a real shame. As they could have legitimately gone with sizzle and the same steak as the regular line, but they didn't, it seems doubly harsh. I've no idea how the designer (for both the planes and the saw) must be feeling; it's something of a roller coaster just for the independent observer.

Anyway, for fun I thought I'd hunt out my own initial reactions to them. First, the initial look at the saw in September 2006, albeit far from its finished form:

"Coo, it's a hard one to get used to the idea of to be honest. It's, well, the familiar made weird I suppose. The handle looks almost verging on normal, 'til you take in the back and then... I can see it makes practical sense like that, in fact it's rather clever, but by gum, it's one that'd take a bit of getting used to.  

D'you want me to do Todd Hughes' reaction for you? 'I'm just a slow head but I can't see the sense in buying a saw I wouldn't even bend down to pick up and toss in the trash when there's so many good old saws for sale, cheap. I ain't gonna sorta collect them.' Something like that, anyway..."

And yes, Todd Hughes' reaction was pretty much on those lines. ;-) But as you see, I was a trifle taken aback at first. 

Alas, computer foibles mean I lost my reaction to the first sight of the plane, but in July 2007 I got to see a picture of a pre-production model of the NX:

"Ooooooohhhhh indeed.

Just how many frustrated car designers have you got over there? The "V" would be a shoe-in, plus the go-faster stripes down the side. On the other hand there may be some latent desire for a better trainer (sneaker?) 'cos that toe looks almost slipper-like, plus the round heel... Coo, I can't *wait* to read the reactions once it's official.

I shall go forth and dwell upon it for 'some time' - but I think I like it."

And I do. I'm typing this with a group of four adjustable mouth low angle block planes at my elbow - the NX60, DX60, LV and LN - and it results in two things. One; it's really hard to concentrate on typing this when your eye is continuously drawn towards such a line-up of loveliness... Two; we are so very lucky to be woodworking during the production of such a rich vein of hand tool wondrousness. To pick holes in any of them seems to be rather ungracious.

Having said which, I've just realised there's a ding in the finish of the lever cap on my LV regular low angle block. Where's my review of them? Didn't I say keeping them looking nice would be an issue with that finish...? ;-)

Edited to Add: Rob Lee has shared some of the early concepts for the plane and thinking behind the design and so forth here on WoodNet. I only saw the first concept image, as far I can recall. And yes, I did indeed drop the ball on the longer toe issue. Hey, you can have a review in five days - or you can wait thirty days for a good review ;-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Veritas NX60 Premium and DX60 Block Planes

So it's the 25th in Vladivostok, innit...? But I also got the "okay" from LV, so here they are. Enjoy.


Well I dunno about Rob et al, but I'd certainly be a bit peeved that it wasn't LV's site that got to be first to show the new Premium plane - as far as I know, the first sighting was on the UK Workshop forum courtesy of the UK distributor. Further leaks are springing up in all directions now. However, I was given an embargo until the 25th, which I'll stick to until I hear otherwise (yes, I have begged, er, asked to have it lifted!). I suppose it's pretty impressive that the secret was so carefully kept up until early this morning, UK time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Veritas Dovetail Saw

So Lee Valley have taken pity and given us something to chew over whilst we await the Great Unveiling next week. Incidentally, this something I didn't know would be unveiled earlier than next week, so I've done some serious speed writing/photography here to get you early info:

For the hyper-sensitive, I should note that comparison was made with the LN simply because it's probably the most widely known of the existing dovetail saws, so it acts as a useful benchmark. 

Anyway, I just know the reader's going to have an opinion on this one, so I want to see my inbox overflowing with comments! Queries, questions etc all welcome too. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Can't stop - just a brief note to advise the reader that a box of goodness has turned up at Alf Towers from a certain tool pusher well-known to us. I can't say much - principally 'cos I don't know how much is known already and also 'cos info is date embargoed ('citing, eh?) - but what I can say is 'Premium'. I can also assure you I will move heaven and earth to get some words and pictures up on same as soon as the official launch has hit.

Keep up your fluid intake - I think there may be some serious drooling to be done...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Pursuit of Woodworking

Yes, me again. Oh I know, I just won't go away, will I? Sorry.

The other day I had cause to observe that "you can take the girl out of woodworking, but you can't take woodworking out of the girl". Somehow I'd managed to read the words "slash camp" (don't ask) as "sash clamp". It could happen to anyone. Well not anyone perhaps; but probably any of the readership of this blog. Wouldn't happen to the non-woodworking person who confessed to having looked at my website and "not understood one word in ten" of course, but her loss. Actually I was impressed she got one word in ten, until I factored in the "and's", "the's" and "whoops, that went wrong's". Maybe I need to clean up my writing style a bit...

Ya see, while I haven't been woodworking, the old creative juices have still had to be channelled off somewhere, and I've been exploring the world of fiction writing. It's rather good fun. No, I tell a lie. The chatting with other persons also struggling with recalcitrant muses, "plot bunnies" and trying to balance "fluff" so cloying you're teeth'd drop out just reading the title with "angst" so painful your reader would be as likely to commit suicide as finish reading, that's fun. Having someone to "beta read" what you've written and provide feedback and proofreading is superb luxury. The writing itself is as tortuous as any review ever penned.

Incidentally, did you understand one word in ten of that? No? Now you know how she felt. Why do all these hobbies/crafts/trades have to have their own language? Sometimes I feel that human beings waste about 90% of their brain capacity having to store a glossary of terms...

Anyway, it turns out I write fiction as a sort of combination of review and blog. There's an inordinate amount of checking facts (quite ridiculous for fiction), jokes (natch), a conclusion at the end (frequently unexpected, which is rather less like reviewing) and even a helpful diagram in one instance. Starting with a bizarre premise seems to be a bit of a habit too. It's just a matter of time before fiction embraces woodworking and my current schizophrenic existence is resolved.

So there I am, hobnobbing with entirely non-woodworking persons, right? Exclusively female, what's more, so the odds against are ridiculous. In which case can you explain how it is that my beta reader has started taking woodworking classes (nothing to do with me, guv) and I've just had an email from her wherein she opinions that she "loves the router"? What's worse is she actually finishes projects. Talk about embarrassing... I may have to send her a plane just to side-track her into making whispy shavings and give my guilty conscience a break.

Thus, I give you the pursuit of woodworking. Even when I'm not pursuing it, it pursues me.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Still Aten't Dead

Yes, I'm making like Granny Weatherwax, and metaphorically putting a placard round my neck to reassure anyone wondering; I am still in the land of the living, as hale and hearty as I ever am (but lets not go into that...) and totally without any woodworking activity to blog about. 

The pile of unopened woodworking magazine subs and catalogues continues to grow; side rebate and skew rebates remain unopened in their boxes. Please don't throw things over the latter, I beg you. I'm well aware that it's extremely galling to read such news if you're counting the days to Christmas and hoping that Santa will do the decent thing and leave one or other of same under the tree and not a pair of socks and the Top Gear Best Driving Songs CD - if you're lucky. Old Tool list emails are being deleted unread and I'm barely logging in to any forums at all; so after making the effort last month, I've contrived to drop right out of the loop yet again. In short, it'll be open to debate as to whether I can call myself "woodworker" at all at this rate. Ho hum.

At some point I must update on the rusty chisel situation and some excellent customer service from Matthew at Workshop Heaven. But I'm saving that to prove I'm still breathing next month...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Premium Stanleys

I doubt that the recent flurry of excitement over Stanley's proposed re-entry in the world of decent hand tools has escaped you. It almost escaped me, so off the pace am I at the moment. Anyway, I haven't read all the reaction by any means (not enough hours in the day!) but some of the comments concerning the planes madeth me to howl. "I see the Stanley designers have the LV catalogue then" and so forth. 

Kiddies, I present for your consideration the Stanley 60 1/2 A. Made in England, c.1983. Couldn't get hold of Scrit for his permission to copy his excellent pics here, so please follow the yellow brick road. Since that thread, I have actually seen a 9 1/2 A as well, but the price was sufficiently high to dissuade purchase just for the sake of knowledge. I consider plane design as a game of pass the parcel; some players unwrap more layers at a time than others, but basically it's still the same present in the middle.

There ya go; my thought for the day. ;-)

An eagle-eyed and long-memoried reader reminds me that I frequented the premises of Pennyfarthing Tools earlier this year, and thus have hunted rust. I protest. Going to a well-appointed dealer is as akin to genuine rust hunting as helping yourself to a buffet is to going out and hunting antelope on the plains of the Serengeti. Pish, I say. And even tush. No, my elephant gun is hung over the mantlepiece, my feet are be-slippered and toasting before the fire of rust retirement. Once the last rhinoceros head has been stuffed and mounted, that's me done. Of course, given how many things await cleaning, that moment of true rust cessation is still some distance off...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ferrous oxide

That's rust to you and me. Cast your mind back - oh gosh, quite a way back, I see - to the acquisition of a set of "round back" dovetail chisels from Ashley Iles. Yes, I know I owe you all a promised review. Sorry, sorry... The creative juices are being channelled in unexpected alternative directions at the mo'. Don't ask.

Anyway, you'll observe that I regarded the leather chisel roll as somewhat surplus to my desires. Have I given this blog the benefit of my leather tool roll rant? No? Well brace yourselves. The only time I've ever, ever had rusting chisel problems is in leather tool rolls. The workshop is dehumidified; chisels left out in a rack 24/7 do not rust. Chisels left in canvas tool rolls do not rust. And yet I can diligently wax and generally protect a chisel, put it in a leather roll, and it rusts virtually before my eyes. It happened to the LNs, and now it's happened to these.

I took extra care in this case, forewarned being forearmed. The blades were waxed. A wad of cotton soaked in camellia oil was put in the bottom of each pocket. The roll was in that, as previously mentioned, dehumidified workshop. Chisels to the left of it have not rusted. Chisels to the right of it have not rusted. But the chisels in the goddamn leather roll have perishing rusted. I am Not Pleased.

I don't know why it's the case; the chemicals used for the tanning, the natural tendency of the leather or whatever. I don't care; I just beg and plead with manufacturers to Stop Providing the Bloody Things! Please!

And talking of rust, I believe I may have gone a whole year without hunting the stuff. Incredible. I could actually be cured...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lee Valley Plane Screwdriver

I'd hoped to talk to you of ships and shoes and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings; but instead a few long words about a small tool. 

My initial reaction on being sent one of these back in April was "Why fore hast the boys in the R&D department sent me a new front knob for a plane? And why doesn't it have any threads?" That's one of the joys of this beta-ing business - you get additional Woodworker's Wotsit moments sometimes. 

Turns out it's a screwdriver for the sole purpose of tightening and loosening cap iron screws on planes. Of course. Why didn't that immediately spring to mind? Actually that's not as silly as it sounds; finding a good screwdriver for the task is not always straightforward, as demonstrated by the many chewed up cap iron screws you see. Usually they're the right tip size, but too long. Or just the right length, but too narrow. Indeed, older woodworking texts often devote some not inconsiderable space (relatively-speaking) to advising how best to deal with cap iron tightening safely and effectively.

Essentially, LV have taken the "short 'n' stubby screwdriver with a wide blade" ideal for the task, made it even shorter, added a brass collar to corral the tip in the slot for added safety, and put a nice mushroom-shaped Bubinga knob on the end. Feels nice (surprisingly heavy), looks nice and does its job.

Cap iron screws of 21/32" (16mm) or less only need apply, though, and I found that tended to discriminate against all the old wooden planes I tried. Which is a shame, 'cos their screws are often the softest, most chewed up and thus most in need of extra care. But it's not really fair to complain; it's aimed at Veritas planes, Stanleys and all those numerous makes based on the Bailey design. Which is does perfectly well.

So, do you need one? Nope, not really. It's very much in the unnecessary luxury category to my mind. Functional, without question, but in no way on the list of essentials. Possibly not even viewing the list of essentials from a distance. But it's pleasing, in its way. Indeed, I'm not so sure I won't keep it on my desk as an unusual "executive" toy rather than have it in the workshop.

Oh, and there is one thing heavily in its favour. It's a screwdriver guaranteed not to be used to open paint cans...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sylvan transfer

Now this, folks, is the way to go about doing woodworking tourism; sit at home and let it come to you... By roundabout methods I needn't go into here, I find among my acquaintance a person wot has a place in Romania. To be more accurate, Transylvania. Yes, yes, where the vampires come from - you may expect a least one reference to that at some point, unless I can resist. And no, she isn't one. At least as far as I know. It's not something you talk about... 

Anyway... Transylvania being translated, as she reminds me, to "the country beyond the woods", seems rather woodworker-friendly. As long as you keep a stake handy. Behold; here's the local castle of Bran - yes, before you ask, this blog entry is particularly good for you. It's All Bran. (Gawd, that was terrible. Sorry)

And here we have some woodworkers of Bran displaying their safety masks. Well if you were a dust particle, would you want to come within 5 yards of such a countenance? Obviously I jest; must admit I'm not sure of the reason for the masks. Maybe to give the kiddies nightmares about something other than Vlad the Impaler?

And a fine product from said woodworkers:

'Tis a bit reminiscent of shells to my eye, no? Anyway, I'm informed the woods are Cherry: ciresi (pronounced chiresh), Ash: frasin and Silver Birch: mastecan. Also used are Walnut: nuc, a dark red Plum: pruna, and Willow: salcie (pron. salchiye). No, I didn't ask; usually you get the blank look followed by the rapid shuffle as the person tries to get away from you when you ask "but what wood is it?" don't you? Or is that just me... No, this was volunteered me. Perhaps the reputation of woodworkers wishing to know details proceeds us?

I thought it was interesting that it's the end grain that provides the face; but on reflection it makes some sense. Presumably they shape up the end of a long stick, cut it off, shape up the end again, cut it off, and so forth, making a larger and more manageable workpiece to deal with? Good moment to drill the small holes for the elastic cord that holds it all together too, I'd have thought. Indeed, might well be a design worth ripping off, er, I mean flattering with imitation...

So there we have it; many thanks to Abbs for the pics, the content and, indeed, the raison d'etre. Oh, and the garlic. See? She can't be a vampire after all.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Groovy news for lefties

At the risk of turning into a Veritas infomercial again, I see that there is news that a left-handed version of the plough plane (plow plane, 'Murricans) is going to be made available. A few months yet 'parently, but should any sinister folks want to hold off don't say you weren't told.

Must admit I'm a smidgeon surprised that there's market enough to make it worthwhile, while at the same time not being surprised that LV would be the firm to cater for these weird persons who haven't had their cack-handedness beaten out of them at an early age... ;-)  It certainly makes for a truly unique metal plough; at least I don't believe there ever was a left handed example in production before. And one metal plow I won't, in theory, want to buy. I suppose at that point I really find out if I'm a collector or not...

Friday, September 05, 2008


So that was a neat dovetailing then; two grovelers for two catalogues. I fear the break from blogging has, as expected, knocked reader numbers back a bit. Heigh ho. Either that or you all fear the credit crunch and the subsequent bankruptcy such a catalogue could induce.

Now if only I could find the bit of paper that has the subjects for next week's blogging written upon it, I could give you a "Next time on Musings..." preview. But I can't, so, erm, I can't. Hopefully I'll find it by next week though. Have a good weekend one and all, I'm off to tidy this desk...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wotsit woz...

A quick unrolling of the wotsit later, and I have the ceremonial regalia of the Worshipful Company of Wood Botherers...

Or to be more accurate, not to say truthful, a length of samples of veneer bandings. All numbered with handwritten labels.

It's a thing of beauty; rather like an embroidery sampler, but for woodworkers. And some of the bandings are so intricate too.

Some loose samples of bandings came with it too, which are just crying out to be framed, quite honestly. To-do list number 7639...

And last call for catalogue requests. You've got until midnight BST tonight to grovel in my inbox!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Woodworker's Wotsits

No, Woodworker's Wotsits is not a delicate euphemism for something nasty... Just the bits, bobs and puzzlements that seem to inevitably stumble across the woodworker's path. I'm sure we've all scratched our heads trying to identify a particular timber, or a particular tool (or more likely, part of a tool.) Normally you at least get a vague idea straight away; animal, vegetable or mineral? Or rather; wood or tool?

I received this in the post the other day, and I can safely say I didn't have a clue until I opened it. No idea whether it's a common thing or not, so I'll leave it as a hanging "wotsit" until tomorrow, so you can be clever and/or guess. It's about 3" wide, if that helps.

Monday, September 01, 2008

September in the Rain

Hey, that makes a change from August in the rain anyway.

So September already. How the devil did that happen? No matter; I have a couple of woodwork-y things concealed up my sleeves. Can you see 'em? No? Just past the rabbit and the fifteen feet of silk scarves...

But first, the part-loved, part-hated UPS man came a-calling today, and left - amongst other
 things - three copies of the new Lee Valley catalogue. Oooo, I hear you cry. Oooo, indeed. So, being as how nature has provided me with only one pair of eyes, that leaves two copies up for grabs. Same routine as before - indeed I intend to copy 'n' paste the required text:

For a copy of the Lee Valley & Veritas 2008/9 catalogue to your (UK mainland-situated) door, free, gratis and for nothing, get your entry into my inbox (email address on the website) with "Drool" in the subject line and plenty of grovelling in the body of the text ;) and I'll draw two lucky recipients from the hat. Entries close at midnight on Thursday.

If drooling and groveling don't appeal, complete this limerick instead:

There was a young man from Lee Valley...

Monday, August 04, 2008


Excuse? Erm... inertia? Just a fancy name for being a bone-idle lazy blogger really. It's not going to get any better either, so this blog is going into deliberate hibernation for at least the rest of the month. If the gods should smile upon me, instead of the other things they've been showering me with, I hope to be back with woodworking stuff in September.

If you log on in September and find a further postponement, you'll know that didn't work out either...

To keep you amused, the interior of the church where the first wedding was held. Apparently the daughters of one of the incumbents did all the carving on the pulpit and rood screen; can't tell you when 'cos I got two different stories about it from two different people, and I didn't hear either of them very clearly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shoes and Nibs

What is it with mothers? I mean, perhaps it a mother/daughter thing and most of the readership is spared this horror, but mothers are, well, annoying. Not that I don't love my mother (at the risk of turning into the cliched bar room drunk, I love my mum, I really, really - hic - do) but she suddenly got a bee in her bonnet about my shoes. What?! Apparently the bog-standard choice of footwear I've always relied upon on all occasions is simply not good enough for The Wedding. Eh? It's a wedding, not the second coming. But she whittles away at me until I feel compelled to at least look.

And against all the odds I suddenly manage to turn the fortunes of this week right around by finding not only some mother-acceptable shoes, but they also turned out to be half price. That, my friends, is a miracle. Couldn't quite bring off a double miracle in getting her to accept the more comfortable shirt over the one she said I have to wear, but we'll call it a score draw.

Seriously, I'm too old to be this bossed around by my mother. It's like a really bad comedy film. The sort that only makes you laugh in a thank-goodness-that's-not-me sort of way. Rather like one views clowns. Joy; I'm a clown. Ack, I may have to resort to getting through the rest of this week in a haze of alcohol as the only way.

Still here? More fool you; I'd get out of here if I was you. I would, if I could. Okay, in woodworking news you can pop over to the Old Tools Archive and see the galoots getting all snipe-y and irritable with each other over saw nibs. This one's particularly lovely. Yeah, I did keep out of it, but only 'cos I know the answer. No, I can't tell you, but it has something to do with cutting tails first...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quatorze Juillet

This blog is at serious risk of turning into an obituary column this year, for which I apologise. If I'd seen how ruddy awful 2008 was going to be, I'd have been less keen to see the back of 2007. Anyway, Polly is no more. A pretty ghastly weekend really; good deal of time spent almost literally holding her paw at odd hours of the night and such. At least she was able to be out in what sun we had on Saturday, which was nice. Always one for some sunshine.

Funny to think she's the last of a whole family we've had over the years, back to her grandmother. We also had her aunt, my brother had her uncle and half-brother and so forth. So something of an end of an era.

It's going to be one of those weeks I fear. Today was supposed to be a Haircut Day (urgh) but the hairdresser is on crutches so we'll remain unshorn. Not too disastrous as I've already been nagged into letting my hair grow longer for The Wedding (why? I dunno) so can manage a passable impression of a shaggy dog as it is. Tuesday, guess what? Vic the plumber is coming again. Did I tell you about the new taps? Probably not. But one started to leak (of course) so he's coming to sort it out. Wednesday we slope off up country for said Wedding on Thursday. Great. It's not like I was exactly in the mood before, but now... On the bright side I may still be internet-enabled; on the minus side we all know how unreliable 'puters are... Oh, and this weekend was the Southwest Forest Woodfair, which, naturally, I missed. Even if I was in the right frame of mind for it, which I wasn't. And another Popular Woodworking mag has come, to join the pile of the great unread.

So on the Happy Bunny Scale I'm registering somewhere around the Mouldy Lettuce Leaf mark.

But hey, it could be worse. At least I don't own a Bastille...

Friday, July 11, 2008


'pologies. In addition to everything else, the weather has decided to launch monsoon conditions upon the holidaymakers in Cornwall - and thus also on the poor heads of those of us stuck down here all year round. And what does heavy rain mean? Unreliable internet connection. Grrr. 

Thanks for the kind thoughts on and off line about Poll. She's still hanging on in there, which shouldn't come as a surprise given her rocky start to life and the determination she showed then. Between you and me, I think she knows the world exists purely for her benefit and is loathe to see it end abruptly when she goes, leaving us all in limbo. Of course she's right, but don't tell her I said so... ;-)

Anyway, yes, 'tis the hanging sheep of I & H Sorby that I had in mind. A bijou example ici:
Thanks to Peter for pointing out that you can search the PDF - I am, of course, a div. It's happening an awful lot just recently. Mind you, it shouldn't come as a surprise; one brain cell is easy to lose... And also a thank you to Gary for the excellent laugh I had from the quip that "I Sorby" was a Roman emperor. "I came, I Sorby, I made tools" perhaps?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


My, weren't you folks on the ball? Yep, the 'roo is Mr Robert Sorby's (Kangaroo Works, of course). Mr Punch the trademark introduced around 1870 for I(saac) Sorby, long since taken over by one of many subsequent firms even then. Here's a nice clear I Sorby example from an earlier post:

Extra bonus marks for naming another Sorby firm and its animal trademark...?

And the Elephant without parallel is indeed, Tyzack, Sons & Turner. Of which I have a few examples, but strangely no handy piccy. Heigh ho.

Apologies for the tardy update; another animal is causing concern chez Alf and it slipped my mind. Doesn't look too good for our cat, Polly. Her seventeen years appear to be catching up with her... :-(

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Somewhere on my extensive list of Things To Do, hidden amongst such recurring things as "do a blog entry" and "tackle the ironing", are numerous items I fear are just Castles in the Air. These days going into the workshop at all would probably qualify, but that's by-the-by... Anyway, one of aforementioned Castles is to assemble a web page (or pages) of the main British toolmakers with basic location and dates. But most importantly, with their trademarks. So imagine my happy dance when I stumbled across this page and downloaded the PDF of "Trademarks on Base-Metal Tableware. (It's about 9.7MB)

Tableware? I hear you query. Yep. An awful lot of toolmakers made cutlery too, so it's applicable.

The trouble is it has the same drawbacks as a book - you can't do a quick finder search of the text, which is why I dream of a website. Will it ever happen? You never know. Just don't hold your breath 'cos you'll only go blue in the face...

The drawback to finding this is I'll now see just how many more animal-related trademarks there are out there to find. Did I mention my little predilection for tools with animals on them? No? Well it's there. Mainly dormant, and I can obviously stop any time I like, but I do like them. In the words of a well-known character in old tool circles; I sorta collect them. Although I'm not a collector. Nosiree. Just a user. Yep.

Does that work when I haven't been using them? Oh let's not go there... To distract you from that train of thought, how about a quick quiz? Anyone want to identify these marks? 

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I seem to recall I caught some stick from our brethren in the Great White North last year in marking the Fourth of July but failing to wishing Canada a happy birthday on the First. So how I managed to fail again, I cannot explain. Sorry, sorry. It's only 'cos I feel that Canada, at a sprightly 100-and-something year old, should have got over its rebellious teenage years by now and be ready to come back home to the Empire... But can you imagine it? "Canada, tidy your room!" "Don't wanna. Going to the hockey game"

And yes, my tongue's so firmly in my cheek I have to eek ike is.

Oh, and I had a woodworking thought. I know, steady on. Worry not, it won't last. I had cause to look at the FWW blog page and spotted an entry by Garrett Hack about the class he recently took over here in Blighty. Now such is my non-woodworking attuned brain these days, I actually skipped 95% of it, but one thing caught my eye. 

"Since the humidity in England is consistently high, the wood we were working had a moisture content of I would guess 12 percent or so. Interestingly, it took the glue far longer to grab, which made for some revisions in how we worked."

Now I know we have a lot of differences twixt British woodworking and that in 'Murrica (mainly that it's more expensive over here) but I'd never given much thought to how it might effect some techniques that wouldn't obviously be an issue at first consideration. It madeth me to think; primarily that I now have a new excuse - I live on the wrong continent. No, please, don't disabuse me of this lovely thought with reasoned argument. I like the idea I can blame my failures on geography. Never did like the stuff.

It also keeps up a pretty remarkable record; I've yet to read an article by Mr Hack that hasn't taught me something. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Don't talk to me about spur cutters. Honestly, I managed to totally fail to engage my brain cell when it came to same on the Godot Brother and will have to take a re-sit. I could blame the lack of revision notes - and believe me, I do that too - but truth to tell usually I'd have spotted the obvious myself and I failed to. I dunno, I had a feeling it was all a bit pear-shaped but there we are. I'm really not at all on the woodworking ball at the moment and should probably be put out to pasture. Or humanely put out of my misery with a nail gun to the temple.

To add to my woes, er, joys I mean; my esteemed and much-loved mother - sometimes known as The Patient - found this blog the other day. So now I type with that additional viewer over the shoulder. That's good, isn't it...? However I don't expect her to be a regular visitor, and she hasn't grasped how to read beyond the last four entries, so fingers crossed we may yet get away with it...

Now I did warn you about the decline in my mood as The Wedding approached, didn't I? Yes, I did. See? I wasn't kidding. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Attack them with spoons

You want cross grain shavings - I can give you cross grain shavings. Must admit the plane isn't actually in this shot though; but it is in yesterday's, honest.

It's no good, they're just not as much fun as the long grain ones.

Now you're wondering what that has to do with the post title, aren't you? Well okay, so you're not, but you might have been. The answer is nothing, I just love the phrase. I was reading the reaction to the pilot for the US remake of Life On Mars that's currently floating about on the surface of the interweb and that's what someone said: "it made me want to attack them with spoons". Don't look like that; it made me laugh. The pilot, however, did not. I never got as far as deciding what cutlery to use, opting instead to fall into a coma of my very own. 'nuff said.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Yes, folks, I can reveal exclusive pics of the Veritas skew rebate (cue sharp intake of breath from el Presidente)
Unfortunately I forgot to clear away all the pretty shavings before I took the shot. Sorry. Nice though, aren't they? 

Your correspondent is now duckin' and runnin' for her very life... ;-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wax lyrical

Okay, enough of pluggin' Lee Valley stuff. Let's plug something nearer home instead! ;-)

Even as the parcel from the aforementioned arrived, so did an unsolicited trial sample of Protec Tool Wax from Matthew at Workshop Heaven. Naturally I can spot an opportunity to kill two fowl with one projectile as well as the next layabout, so will try out one on t'other. Stay tuned. First impressions: looks (and smells) just like Liberon's Lubo Wax, which I've been using for some years now.

Given that the origins of this blog are largely down to Firefox (as well as that large download) it seems fitting to alert you to the release of Firefox 3.0. - simply to give you the chance to be part of their attempt to set a Guiness World Record with Download Day (hurry though!). Hey, you can print off a certificate; what's not to like?

Let's draw a veil over the fact I use Safari now and am quite happy with same...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Handle Wot Alf Liked

Just as I was struggling to come up with something to blog about, I was rescued by that well-known sieve with the initials RCL. It's not just the Ship Of State that leaks from the top...

Anyway, as per title, this is the famous handle:

And another shot of what comes with the handle, should that be of any interest. D'you know I never took a single picture of the thing while it was here? Just goes to show how switched on I'm not at the moment.

So that's one less thing I have to remember not to talk about, which is a blessing. And my verdict? Based on the example I've played with, I think it's really rather good.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Well did you ever? Three and a half years on and here it is - the 500th blog entry. And all started because I was waiting for a really large file to download. I would have hoped to be in the middle of some exciting project for such a milestone, but never mind. By all means re-live the "glory days" of tables, chairs, workshop reorganisation and endless struggles with updating the website via the archives to your right -> 

Anyway, a thank you to all of you who've, inexplicably, hung around to read these whitterings. I'd have felt a bit silly just talking to myself; not that feeling silly would have probably stopped me... 

So plus ce change, plus ce meme chose, as they say on t'other side of the Channel - the rapacious monster that is the Lee Valley Veritas R&D department once more puts forth its claw, hooks me in and tells me there's further stuff on its way. And, as ever, I'm not in a position to say much on here, much to all our annoyance. Although I don't think I'm letting any cats out of bags in saying that I believe one item is a right-hand skew rebate. A plane so long promised by el Presidente that I fondly refer to it and its left hand sibling as The Godot Brothers. Not that I have the faintest idea what it'll look like; the closest we've got to a public view is this:
Pretty, innit? No, I don't know what it means either, but it does tell me the thing will have a rear tote. Oh joy, oh rapture unconfined - I feel a Freaky Handed Moment coming on... Alas, these days it also means a "wrestling with UPS" moment to come as well - everything keeps being sent with waybills for their return journey. Humph. Heigh ho, it was a good run while it lasted! But friends, consider the irony. That handle I liked? I don't even have an example of it amongst all those ones I didn't... ;-)

Friday, June 13, 2008


There's a long-held theory on the Old Tools List that each person has only a certain number of "bad" dovetails in them, and all you need to do is keep making dovetailed boxes for all your tools until you get them all out of your system. It's a beguiling idea, is it not? Especially when addressed to a load of collec-, er, tool accumulators who do tend to need rather a lot of tool storage... Of course, in practice, there's no knowing when a bad dovetail will come out and bite you. Naturally the bulk of them will appear early on and continue in chronological order, but like the unexpected stone in the cherry cake of life, a blip in the smooth upward curve of one's dovetailing endeavours can happen at any time.

Oh, how I'd love to be able to say this musing came to me as I gazed at my latest disastrous dovetail, but it goes without saying that I haven't a latest dovetail of any variety to gaze at. About a month ago - or was it six weeks - I did line up some off-cuts with a view to dovetailing up a simple open tray to corral the ever-growing DVD disc mountain. Heck, I even got so far as to whip out the old 043 and rustle up a groove to take a base. Alas, that was as far as the heady excitement of being in the workshop actually got. The pieces sit there now; groovy but unfinished. And the disc mountain is threatening to turn into a landslip. I will get back to it at some point, I'm sure I will, but now there's an added point to ponder: will it be one of my allotted bad dovetails...?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hamming it up

Today, a puzzlement that's been, well, puzzling me for some time. I doubt I'm blogging to the most likely demographic vis-a-vis watchers of BBC costume drama "Cranford" (no, I didn't think so) but bear with me. If you managed to survive through nearly five hours of relentless bonnets and bustling - and speaking as someone who seriously lost interest once Mr Carter had been blown up, I empathise - perhaps you might have found your eye drawn to the peripheries, as I did. And what I saw was this:

Forgive the bluriness and size; I'm not splashing out on a proper DVD of the thing just for this! Anyway, it seems to be a cunning meat joint-holding device, and it gets an airing on here 'cos it's made of wood. Duh. It came as a complete novelty to me, but I wondered if someone out there in the ether would be likely to leap to their pins and cry "why, that's a burfl! Let me proceed to give you a potted history and fully dimensioned plans". 

Okay, I'll make do with "yes, I've seen/heard of one before". I'm not fussy. What say you, sirs? Ladies?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More knits

Evidently the knitting needles captured the readership's imagination more than it did mine - who'd have thunk it? Actually it's probably not saying much; I did my compulsory 6 squares of assorted stitches about 20 years ago and resolved never to pick up a ball of wool ever again...

However, should you be agog to knit your own plastic bag, BugBear kindly found a how-to. Please, if you do, I'd welcome pics! Of the needles, or the bag. Or both. I'm struggling for bloggable material here... ;-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I've been getting a rash of rather odd emails via the website recently. I mean in addition to the usual spam promises to "increase the size of my tool" (not an offer to turn a #4 into a jointer, regrettably) and folks falling over themselves to give me degrees. Lots of combination plane ones, of course. In fact enough of them to start to make it worthwhile getting together an FAQ. Mind you, the questions are easy - it's the answers that give me trouble... But probably the most bizarre email was a local one. Was I in a position to make wooden knitting needles? For knitting plastic bags into, erm, other plastic bags.

Yes, you read it right. Knitting plastic bags. Not even sure where to begin with that one. I did my best to suggest something sensible, but it was quite, erm, difficult to keep it serious. 

I tell you, sometimes the emails alone are worth the cost of having the website...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Not lapping it up

Okay, so I wanted a short whinge about the Veritas Lapping Plate. Why? I hear you ask. Does it not work? Dunno! But it isn't what I wanted it to be! *pause to stamp foot and tantrum like a toddler* I was hoping LV were going to take pity on us diamond paste users and divvy up a handy machined plate in cast iron, not a metal brick with a pattern on it like the bottom of a pair of Reeboks. Silicon carbide abrasive grit, forsooth? That's just a rehash of the Japanese technique, innit? Do I look like I wear a kimono and eat sushi?! *kicks wastepaper basket* In short, I'm very disappointed and irrationally fed up with LV in consequence.

That's it. That's what I wanted to say. You may move on...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Horse and Carriage

Okay, scrub at least one part of yesterday's post. I now have, unread and waiting for me, two issues of Popular Woodworking and now two issues of Woodworking as well. My literary cup runneth over, forsooth. I wonder if the gods will be kind and make it such that I don't actually want to read them until mid-July? Always handy to have some reading matter when going away.

Not sure I've mentioned July, have I? Number 1 nephew, owner of the Music Stand of Myth & Legend has somehow convinced an apparently sane, normal and nice young lady to marry him. So there's a wedding. In July. Don't ask about the wedding present. One is promised, but you know my rate of production; I'm hoping some time before the fifth wedding anniversary, with luck and a following wind... Not that I'm strictly sure when, technically, the wedding anniversary date will be.

You see, while I say there's A wedding - actually there's A marriage, but two ceremonies. Said young lady is by way of being 'Murrican, with a hefty dose of Russian in the mix, I might add. So first wedding here in Blighty, assorted 'Murricans whizz over The Pond, church do and so forth. Then a bit of a break (pause while bride has birthday, thus being a year older for wedding no.2. Bizarre, no?) Where was I? Oh yeah; bit of a break, then assorted Brits whizz over to what I believe may be termed The Bay Area (San Francisco) and they do it all again in August. Russian Orthodox stylee. 

I believe crowns are involved.

Your correspondent won't be doing any of the whizzing, confining myself to the jaunt across The Tamar into Devon for part one, but I dare say there'll be a video. Hell's bells, presumably two videos... It's not as though I didn't suggest the lad do the decent thing; get a ladder and elope. Heck, I offered to make the ladder, but no dice. So there we are; a joyous event. The fact it a) makes me feel very, very old; and b) I'm to weddings what Ghengis Khan was to good neighbourhood relations, is by-the-by. ;-)

Sorry, not at all woodworking related, but should my mood blacken as the month progresses, now you'll know why.

In woodworking though, further to the startling revelation that Alf Likes A Handle, I can put your minds at ease and reveal that she didn't like the next one. Strangely enough, El Presidente didn't feel the urge to start a thread on that. ;-)  In fact I've heard not much at all. I think I may be in the dog house - again. Heigh ho. Actually, if I'm already in the dog house, I may feel moved to blog about another LV thing next week. As I've had nothing to do with it at all, I could potentially let myself go a bit for a change...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hello, stranger

What can I say, dear reader? My humble apologies. Rest assured it's not just you I've been neglecting; two issues of Popular Woodworking and one of Woodworking sit untouched beside me as I type. Been afflicted by a touch of the Woodworker's Black Dog I think, so been doing a little creative stuff of a non-woodworking sort instead. Heck, you can see how little I've been in the workshop...

Heh, it's not actually anything to do with it of course, but rather a valuable visual reminder of why you don't want to cut timber in the Spring. Alas, no option with this willow and I have grave doubts whether it'll end up as anything but firewood anyway. Heigh ho, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And yes, it really probably shouldn't still be "in the round" like that, but Bill ran away with his chainsaw before I could get it halved. Being contorted I really doubt it'll split.

Anyway, the dark canine has not been helped by the demise of another one of my woodworking inspirations; John Brown, Welsh Stick Chair Maker, Good Woodworking columnist and thought-provoking luddite. Long-term inmates of this blog will recall my own foray into chair making inspired by JB. When I first read his stuff in GWW I was firmly in the routers-are-king-this-man-is-a-deluded-luddite camp, along with many a letter writer to the editor. It wasn't until much, much later that I realised it was those columns that planted the seed that eventually lead to the hand tool nut you see before you today. You might reasonably say he has a lot to answer for... Anyway, others have marked his passing more eloquently than I ever could, so I direct you towards Chris Schwarz's blog and some thoughts from Jeff Gorman on the Old Tools List. I'll just provide some piccies; first, one of his chairs. The second, a cover from his second stint with GWW. Bless you, John; trust there's a comfy chair awaiting you. And if not, some good tools to make one.

John Brown, 1932-2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Burma Cyclone

Not usually my habit to use this blog for such things, but if you're wanting to help but all the reports of obstruction from the Burmese authorities is bothering you, it seems Shelter Box have managed to already get in and distribute their first boxes. No affiliation, just if you're looking for someone who's actually making a difference instead of a point...

Oh, and it's not entirely off topic - there are tools in the box!

And because unfortunately the comments aren't sorted by date, those of you who may be interested in more info on the "#2" turned into a scrub way back in the mists of time, might want to go and see the latest info BugBear has found. Can't believe he didn't buy it for 50p with the box. Sheesh. Picky, picky...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Buon giorno

Or for those of you, like me, who can't speak a word of Italian - Good Day. Thursday seems, inadvertently, to be becoming my Good Day to blog. Dunno why, but there we go.

For those of you who do speak Italian, you might already be familiar with the woodworking forum Il Truciolo. Well a charming, but evidentally insane, gentleman from there by name of Antonino asked whether he could translate some of my reviews into Italian for the site and being the easily-flattered pawn that I am, I said "okay". And behold, the first one is now available. Unfortunately you'll have to register to see it, and the nature of the forum software is such that translating stuff if you're not fluent in Italian is a bit tricky, but should you be interested... 

As ever, English is comprehensively knocked into a cocked hat by the sheer beauty imparted to any phrase when written or spoken in a more poetic tongue. Viz; doth not:

"Per cominciare, devo confessare che non sono un grande utilizzatore di scrub plane"

sound a lot better than:

"Right up front, I must confess I’m not a great user of scrub planes"?

Heck, I can practically hear the famous "utilizzatore di scrub plane" aria wowing the audience at Covent Garden. Mind you I've been hearing a lot of strange things lately; time to increase the medication again methinks... ;-)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rebel Rebel

Yes, it's me. Surprised? Me too. You might know me from such blog musings as "what is it with Polos?" and "The stand-in hands". The latter is particularly relevant just now. The hibernating bear that was Lee Valley's R&D department suddenly stirred last week and a small deluge of opinion-seeking goodness hit my doormat. Naturally it's largely hush-hush (please, don't throw things - I'd tell you if I could, honest I would) but El Presidente has let the biggest cat out of the bag. Viz:

Not so sure about the whole angels and harps thing - could be Rob needs his medication adjusting there - but I do, indeed, find myself liking a LV handle. Well a sort of a handle. Not exactly a tote, not exactly a knob. Not exactly anything you're probably trying to imagine in fact, but it is, in my opinion, Good. It appears that the Veritas Big Chief Designing Gurus are hitting something of a rich vein of form, which should be cause for celebration for all Neanderthals. All looking interesting just now, boys and girls. And no, they're not paying me to say that. Dammit, they're not paying me at all. I know what you're thinking - what a div (Slang. Noun. An idiot, a pitiable person, a contemptible person). Yeah, sometimes I'm thinking that too. Other times I think "lucky blighter" and keep quiet in case it goes away. 

Well, wouldn't you...?

Of course I'm slightly miffed that my position as known handle-hater is somewhat undermined. On the other (freaky) hand, everyone seems to have jumped on the handle bandwagon these days, so maybe it's time to set a new trend anyway. I'm sure tool designers everywhere are utterly thrilled that I'm probably going to start getting picky about something else now... Naturally that presupposes I'll actually get into the workshop a bit more at some stage, which a nice thought I'd like to cling onto just now. No, don't wake me from this pleasant dream; it's nice here and I like it...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Golden Years

Should you ever happen across me anywhere on the face of the interweb, muttering at length on the evils of poly-uckathane varnish, don't think it's from a position of strength now, will you? No, it's not because my hand is innocent of inflicting such horror; rather that's it's largely based on personal experience. One such varnished chicken came home to roost not long ago. Talk about a blast from the past - an early endeavour that was condemned to be returned to its perpetrator on the demise of the owner. There's an argument against living a long life, if ever I came across one. The idea of further youthful projects returning like so many homing pigeons is enough to make me wake up in the early hours in a cold sweat. But that's by the by.

Here's the darn thing. Yellow with varnish and definite signs that not all the glue was removed before the finish was dribbled on.

Oooo, and look at that nasty "seam" there too. Don't even start on the angles at the corners...

No, don't start there 'cos it's so much more obviously wrong on the bottom. D'oh.

On the plus side, the lid's a good snug fit and the felt lining hasn't parted company yet.

Now October/November 1993 - that's what? 14 1/2 years ago. At least I knew what the ruddy wood was I used back then... Like the built-up "joinery"? Yeah, half the reason for the gloopy finish was to keep the thing in one piece!

Unfortunately for my defence, what isn't immediately obvious in photographs is that the substrate for this parquetry box is actually balsa wood. And nothing reveals that it was made exclusively with a scalpel, straight edge and cutting mat. Oh, and lots and lots of glue. Frankly I look at it and wonder how in hell I did it. I think I'll call it the "arrogance of ignorance". I didn't know it was insane, not to say probably impossible, so I just did it.

I must confess, despite the myriad faults exemplified by this box, I find myself suffering something of a twinge of jealousy for that daring scalpel-wielder of 15 years ago. These days it seems like I know about 10,00 ways any one aspect of any project can go wrong; and now I know it can, it seems it frequently does. Is it like not showing fear to dogs? Does my anxiety transmit itself to the wood? Who knows? But sometimes it does feel as though the paralysis of knowledge has made me much less productive, rather less daring, and just possibly, I'm having rather less fun too...

Moral of the story? Erm... treasure your ignorance? No, that can't be right... 

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wild is the wind

Ha-hum. Perhaps that should be "Wild was the wind" for accuracy... If anyone cares to cast their mind back to last month and the rather excitable weather we had in Merrie Olde Englande? Yeah? Got it? Wind? Spring Tides? That sort of stuff? Well I had cause to empty out the old memory card from the camera and found the following:

Cast your mind back to here. Yeah, recall the willow throwing off the shackles of one branch? Remember how doubtful I was about the next branch "up"? Yeah, well I had a point it seems...

There, as they say, it isn't. That is to say it isn't "up" any more.

By the nature of the contorted beast, the split went deep into the trunk. And the next branch up was heading in a workshop-ly direction. I'm pleased to say The Management saw the peril and , Cornwall being Cornwall, the weekly-visiting fishman was hired to remove the offending tree.

Yes, the fishman. Bill the Fish, as we refer to him in a pseudo-Welsh manner. (Kinda like "Jones the Post" or "Williams the Satellite Installer" d'you see?) He's an ex-chef (couldn't take the stress of waking up at 3 am in a cold sweat imagining setting up 40 plates apparently) and now travels around in his van selling fish to the various old and young (mainly old) dears who are about during the day to buy it. It's almost impossible to get him to provide scallops, but that's by the by.

Anyway, when there's no fish (Bank Holidays, bad weather, etc) he turns his hand to, erm, just about anything. Including, it seems, taking down trees. Hey, he has a chain saw, what more d'you need? Well actually protective clothing. But he has that too. Well some of it. Oh heck, it wasn't me doing the hiring anyway... So on Good Friday he slaved like a Trojan in taking down and shredding the whole thing. Apart from a couple of chunks that are currently cluttering up the workshop with their ends sealed. Heck, something might as well take up floor space in the workshop at the moment - sure as a sharp plane makes shavings, I'm not....

Hope this almost-woodworking post hasn't shocked the multitude? Fear not. I came close to going into the workshop but was thwarted first by Paddy-The-Builder (can he fix it? Erm, hope so) and then Vic-The-Plumber (can I run away fast enough? Erm, no I can't) so the hibernation of all things toolish chez Alf is still sacrosanct. 

And finally, The Patient should really be re-classified. Possibly as The Im-Patient... Cooking has happened. Hobbling in the Big Wide World has happened. In short, The Patient is significantly more mobile and getting approving noises from the Physio, so our lives are pretty hellish just now. Yep, as foreseen; not quite well enough to regain the reins of domestic control, but more than well enough to tell us we're doing it the wrong way. In the words of Gene Hunt:

On which ghastly fan-girl note, enough! (Thanks to vickalo_999 for the icon, although I imagine she's unlikely to check out a woodworking blog...)

I'm hanging on in there - honest...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sound and Vision

Me again. What, already? What can I say - must be Spring has got to me. Not to the point of getting the workshop, natch, but I did almost think of getting in there today, which is some serious improvement.

I also dallied with the idea of trying a April Fool on my reader, but it'd hardly be fair. Not to mention the fact that probably the reader has wandered off by now. Instead allow me to draw your attention to a collaborative effort by two national newspapers and Aunty Beeb which I think may have hauled in a few gullible fish. Nice touch to have David Attenborough on BBC Breakfast as well I thought... Of course for us woodies, Lee Valley is the place to go for April Tomfoolery, and this year is no exception. Although it seems dangerously useful if it really does such a clean job of de-corning cobs...

Of course, being now hopelessly trained to see a Veritas tool and immediately analyse it, that's what I, in fact, did. Terrible, innit? I'm a changed woman, that's what I am; I can't just look at something any more. It doesn't just have knock-on effects in woodworking either. I'll let you into a terrible secret. Pretty much the only thing keeping me sane these last few weeks has been staggering from one weekly fix of the telly series Ashes to Ashes to the next; I'm ashamed to say I was tending to count the hours to 9pm on  a Thursday. I don't get really into TV series that often (last one was Inspector Morse) but when I do, well... and this just happened to come along at just the right moment. You know how I can go on about planes? Yeah, I can get like that about A2A as well. Scary thought, eh? Heck, I'm not proud, but at least it isn't some soap opera.

Anyway, one of the big end-of-series "reveals" involved the identity of who took who's hand. Hands? Man, I'm so abnormally tuned into hands nowadays I knew the answer three weeks into the run. The actor's unusually bendy thumbs gave the game away to such a trained analyst of freaky hands. Sigh. Reminds me of the opening scene in Ngaio Marsh's "Artists in Crime" where the detective hero's powers of observation prove useful to the artist. I used to wonder about what he meant by having "trained his eye", but now I know. Poor blighter didn't have any choice in the matter... ;-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jump They Say

Looking for woodworking content. Sorry, move along. Nothing to see here.

However, I thought a brief "howdy" to demonstrate there's still life, of sorts, on-going chez Alf might be a Good Thing. Plus positive news on The Patient - onto crutches now and supposed to be walking about as from yesterday. Huzzah. Now the fun part; where she's not fit enough to do stuff, but fit enough to be able to hover about telling us where we're doing it wrong... ;-)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Life on Mars?

Things have come to a pretty pass when concerned readers start to email to see if there's life still extant at Alf Towers. 'pologies, folks, various things in "real life" have coincided to make surplus, blog-posting time a non-existent commodity. I'm typing this with one hand whilst spooning breakfast cereal in at pace with the other while the going's good! So bad is it that I've yet to read a word of the Popular Woodworking that flopped onto the mat last week. I know; shockin'. Thank goodness I put a pic of Phil's plane on the blog or I'd have forgotten what it looked like...

Anyway, a quick update on The Patient for those interested. There was a bit of a cock-up with transport provision for the first run at getting this fancy tendon support (i.e. there wasn't any), but the subsequent attempt this Tuesday was okie-dokie and The Patient is all all set to go. Except (at last) she's had some advice as to how much weight she can put on the busted ankle, and basically it's "none". Seems there's an oblique fracture along the tibia as well as dislocation in the actual ankle area, so hence the plate and the long healing time (or something like that - I don't watch enough hospital dramas). Anyway, that means she's basically no more mobile than before, and as the fancy support is not to be worn when a) sitting or b) lying down, in essence she's not using it at all anyway. Sigh. There is, as you may imagine, a certain amount of doom and gloom all round. Heigh ho, time will presumably take on its familiar role of "great healer" and I'll be looking back at this in wonderment and saying "hey, I forgot about that".

Meanwhile I chain myself to the kitchen (within sight of the workshop, dammit), plug myself into the old iPod and try and forget about it now... ;-)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Little Wonder

As The Bard famously writes, usually in life it's "When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions." (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5) Yep, sorrows. And so true is this that it's one of the few Bardisms I inflict on folks in day-to-day life. But old Will missed a trick - joys are coming in battalions at the moment! Totally unexpectedly I had a parcel from Mr Phil Edwards of Philly Planes (I fear we may have stumbled into another one of those Battles of Generosity. Note to other Selves engaged in these on-going wars: more "self", Selves!).

No way I can adequately described my delight really, and the pic doesn't do it justice at all. Literally straight out of the envelope and onto the nearest piece of scrap (couldn't help myself). I've hopelessly failed to demonstrate the handy size, the gorgeousness of the wood, the fineness of the mouth, etc etc. Phil's not getting great reviews just 'cos he's a nice bloke; though he is that too.

Those persons at the Mini Bash last year will remember the dinky smoother Phil brought along? Well my drooling at the time didn't go unnoticed and apparently this is the result. 'Tis in Cocobolo, although I gather from Phil he thinks that might be the last in that problematic timber. Another tool maker succumbs to its side-effects, alas. But hey, in't she a beauty? Love the round-top iron.  Anyway, you may assume I'll be revisiting this one with proper specs and try to get some pics to do it justice. Not to gloat, of course; just for completeness.

Yeah, okay; and to gloat just a little. Is that so wrong? Well even if wrong, understandable at least...

Thanks, Phil! 

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Drive-In Saturday

You know how I periodically rail at the uselessness of the Honda "Jazz" motorcar for the purposes of transporting timber? Would you believe The Management (Transport Division) have just gone and bought their third in a row? Not just the same model, but virtually indistinguishable - it's the same darn colour and everything! It's like "spot the difference" - this time there are reversing/parking sensors, but other than that (and the lack of mud) there's not a thing changed.

Anyway, given The Patient is hors de combat, I went in with the Old Man to swap the old one for the virtually-identical new one this morning. The salesman (virtually a family friend now!) spent most of the time saying "there's no point in telling you how that works, because you know" and variations on the theme. Never was new car buying less exciting, as far as I'm concerned.

Seemed to cheer up the OM though, which is no mean feat in recent weeks, so maybe it was worth it.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Let's Dance

Or in the case of The Patient, let's not dance. Thanks to everyone who's inquired about her progress; a quick update should you feel the need.

Busted Ankle: one, "Good" Ankle: nil

Yeah, the fractured one is doing fine, proper bandaging is now in place (you don't have plaster any more, apparently) and all looks good. However, the other ankle, or rather the Achilles tendon, has wilted under the strain. So a fancy German split to support it has been ordered and will be fitted next week. Sounds like the sort of thing pro footballers have (soccer players, 'Murricans) so I reckon we could be signing Mum for a Premiership club by next season...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oh! You pretty things

Hmm, perhaps the term "pretty" would just make engineering types wince, but they are nice. Form and function in a rather nice blend.

In my continuing, long-term war of galootish gift exchange, I've been soundly trumped here. A totally independent exchange of rust twixt myself and BugBear has been going on for, ooo, quite a few years now. I persistently lag behind, and with a box of goodies like this turning up, you can probably see why. Not least 'cos he's a helluva lot more painstaking in his tool cleaning than what I am. At a glance I can spot a "BugBear" item over any of my own by the amazing combination of patina and gleam. I tells ya, it's a good trick!

So after only a brief play, I think this surface gauge is put together correctly. A frightfully spiffy Eclipse universal model, and heavy as a heavy thing.

I've been on the lookout for a gauge such as this (well probably not so smart and rather rustier, if I'm honest) so this a excellent. That vertical knob acts as a fine adjuster; very clever and very fine adjustment possible. Apparently the scriber is a custom made replacement - all I can say is I managed to jab it in my hand and it seems to exhibit the usual degree of Buggish sharpness.

Now hand vices are always handy items (see?) and yet the only one I had before is, frankly, a bit knackered. Now how did the all-seeing Bear know that?

And finally, a most spiffy Moore & Wright #416 Adjustable Try Square of just the sort of size I consistently fall for. Now BB reckons this is a bit recent for his tastes, but speaking for myself it's the rust-free quality that suits my tastes! I can see this one getting some hefty use.

It may also force my hand a little - the number of tools that should be homed in the M&W engineer's chest (acting as suitable backdrop in the first pic) is reaching the point where the less deserving, non engineering stuff is going to get turfed out to make room. At what point does that mean I've slipped irrevocably over the precipice of the Engineering Slope I wonder...? Heigh ho, it's a lovely way to go, innit? :-)

Thanks, BB!