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!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


So after 2-and-a-bit years of daily use, my beloved metal mug has bitten the dust. Or rather the handle has. I am bereft. Is it just coincidence that it's coincided with an increase of coffee drinking over tea? Is it, in fact, the strength of the old man's coffee wot done her in? 

Oh well, onto a less toolish mug sporting cover pictures from Arthur Ransome's "Pigeon Post" I s'pose. And I really thought I'd at last got a mug I couldn't break. Ach.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Round Backs

Ha hum. The chisel itch failed to clear up before my resolve broke. What can I say - I'm a weak, chisel-lovin' tool fool. As another tool fool observed (name withheld to protect the guilty), twelve step programs have a different meaning for tool fools. "To us it's the number of steps from the curb into a tool monger's establishment." Not, in this case, helped by excellent customer service from Matthew at Workshop Heaven, who will only feed my habit by taking the twelve steps for me, and at the double so it gets here in time for the weekend. Damn you, Matthew...

Anyway, as you can see, it was the still-fairly-new "round back" dovetail chisels from Ashley Iles that were gnawing at by chisel lovin' nerves. (US distributor page chosen to protect the guilty (me) from instant revelation of full financial madness). Cast your mind back to October and those who know me will probably nod wisely and point out that curiosity was almost bound to get the better of me and they could see it coming all along. Yeah, so could I really...

So here they are, on their spiffy (and to me, somewhat unwanted) leather chisel roll, posed next to LN and Marples carver-handled cousins in the hope that'll give the interested some idea of scale. They're pretty light in the hand and the blades feel surprisingly delicate. Not in a "eek, if I hold this too firmly it'll bend" kinda way, but more a "this is going to go exactly where I want it to when I want it to". So that's a good start.

For the statistically-minded; 9" long overall, the handle is 4 1/2" long from ferrule to butt end and 1" diameter at its thickest, and all bar the 1/4" seem to actually be the nearest metric.

Now I can see why the purveyors of these chisels are having difficulty photographing how they really are, 'cos it's not easy. But I tried. As you can see, the round back nature of the 1/8" is a bit academic; to avoid the "eek, if I hold this too firmly it'll bend" effect it inevitably has to be pretty hefty in thickness compared to the larger sizes anyway, so the roundness just seems to result in (more or less) a curved firmer to be honest. 

On the largest 1" size, you can see the curve does actually make quite a difference. Yes, there's still a definite thickness of side on the blade, but no worse than most of my old bevel edged chisels. And the proof of the pudding will be in use, not theory.

The thickness of the side is more obvious in the 3/8" size. It almost looks like it bulges out and then in again, but it doesn't, honest. The edge of the side, if you see what I mean, is sharp.

The fishtailed skews I'm less enamoured of as far as their looks go, despite my initial reaction in October. Frankly they look a bit weird to me; the transition from the shaft to the wider fishtail is somewhat clunky.

Out of their plastic sleeves (as opposed to outta the box) the backs seem fairly well finished, although there's plenty of sign of some back flattening required. At least what I'd usually call back flattening. But they're round backs so, erm... Face flattening then?

So that's what I did. After a few passes on the coarse diamond paste the 3/8" was showing definite signs of work needed.

The 1" displayed a most unusual scratch pattern though. The last 3/16" or so of the back (sorry, face) was as flat as a pancake. Never had that before and then two come along at once in the shape of the 1/4" as well. If it's deliberate, and it's an amazing coincidence if it isn't, I ask myself why a) they're not all like that, and b) what a pity they couldn't do the whole back!

If it did one thing, it was to remind me that one of the joys of the LNs is the flat backs. They almost justify the price tag just for that, imo. However, I much prefer the o1 steel of the AIs, so I persevered. It was hard though, as my precious limited workshop time was ground away. That's perhaps why I was annoyed out of all proportion by finding that 3 out of the 4 square bevels weren't square to the sides. I mean backs I expect (though it shouldn't be like that) but bevels ground out-of-square on a brand new chisel? Too bad; black mark AI. It's no mean feat correcting them when the back is rounded either; one needed grinder treatment it was so out of whack and I struggled. So there's a drawback to the round back I might not have otherwise considered, but not how I would have wished to find out. On the other hand I found out the Veritas MkII honing guide coped okay with all but the 1/8", and luckily that was the one that was square anyway. Besides which narrow chisels are always a pain to deal with so it comes with the territory.

The fishtail skews I have more reservation about. Judging by the "2" marked on the shank and the label on the plastic sleeve I'm guessing they are converted (?) carving chisels. Judging by the noticeable dip in the back (erm, face) at the all-important sharp point, it's possible they even got to the buffing wheel stage before the conversion and the dubbing hasn't been ground off while the skew was put on. Humph. Now one of the reservations I have with fishtailed skews is the fact that, with time and use, the fishtail naturally gets reduced anyway. I really don't relish losing some of that length so early in the game getting rid of the dip, but equally it's sufficiently deep that the idea of grinding down the back to that level is, to say the least, daunting. I've done my best (you should just be able to make out the difference in reflection at the points in the pic above) and we'll see how they work as they are before I decide what to do.

And there's the rub - I ran out of time to actually use them. So this is just the initial look-see/sharpening opinion. Hopefully the fun bit will follow shortly. I mean the important bit. Ha hum. No one noticed that slip, did they? Hard work this, ya know. Yessir.

I'm going now before I completely blow the gaff on my life of tool using partying...

P.S. No affiliation to any vendor or manufacturer involved; a straightforward tool fool purchase opinion, this 'un.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Managed to sort of catch up with my blog reading again and found Chris Schwarz busy alienating the woodworking widows of the world by talking up another tool. (See Now as it happens the Bevel Setter I already have (in metric, if you care) and like it quite a bit. I'd probably like it even more if the tool gods would take pity and let me have some more time to use it. However, not having had Chris to tell me earlier that it's good (and no doubt increasing sales ten-fold as he does so) I probably wouldn't have got it if it weren't for already owning, and finding inordinately useful, a Bevel Boss from Sutherland Tool (thanks to another Chris and an insaitable desire to show off all the possible ways to make a dado without using a dado head in a tablesaur - but that's another story). Anyway, the BB is a bit beefier than the Veritas, but accurately lining up your bevel with the appropriate line can exercise one somewhat. In fact I'd dabbled with thinking of ways to give it a fence, so the Veritas version was something of an answer to a prayer. If only Veritas'd get around the idea of including a 1:7 dovetail angle as well as 1:6 & 1:8 it'd be practically perfect in every way. Oh, except the full 12" rule on the reverse of the BB is rather handy. Ah, you need both, right...?

Anyway, I was reading "the underside of the fence has a couple little grippy feet that make the fence stick to the steel plate like a magnet" and couldn't help spluttering whatchoo talkin' about, Willis? They are magnets, right? Wrong. Just as well I checked before exposing myself to ridicule on a public blog.

Okay, so perhaps that's not quite accurate. How about: Exposing myself to public ridicule on a public blog other than my own...

I feel slightly let down. The Lee Valley love affair with the rare earth magnet is so enduring I was utterly convinced that's what they were. Huh. Still, anybody want to bet against them having tried it with magnets first...? 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stairway to Heaven

So the keyboard cometh, and thus back to the step. Took a lot longer than anticipated, 'cos the Old Man instead of doing a little light shimming, practically rebuilt the granite step with cement. Naturally that entailed giving it a little longer to dry and, if you look carefully, also offering more opportunities for personalisation...

No, not the building inspector of the earlier picture, but her oppo, Polly. Rest assured I signed and dated her prints before hiding them from sight - although she'd probably have liked a gold star and a whole ceremony outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for preference...

On Sunday a solid three hours work saw the step completed and me left wondering what there was to show for my aching knees. Barely any real woodwork to speak of, the "best" being scribing the edges of the boards to fit the contours of the floor and some tweaking flush with the squirrel tail plane. The latter I found ideal for this one-handed, no-workbench sort of work. Very handy.

Not that I was idle whist waiting for the cement to dry. No sir. First the hinted-at Chicken Pie piff, paff, puff pastry-ed its way into being. Not played with puff pastry before - very exciting watching it explode, er, I mean cook. And no, I didn't make it; I do the contents and Mr Jus-Rol provides the pastry. Mind you I have to roll it out, so it's not quite like using ply...

Unfortunately the bananas didn't do the decent thing and die, so I made a Banana and Honey Tea Bread as well.

So while The Patient's ankle is doing well, we're all in danger of coronary heart disease... 

No, no! Fruit and vegetables are featuring a good deal, it's just a saucepan of peas on the hob isn't calculated to make great blog fare, is it? Or good comfort food.

Meanwhile cabin fever is setting in and I find myself emailing various purveyors of fine tools inquiring about things that really I shouldn't be even contemplating buying ('specially not after unexpected forking out for keyboards). Worse than that - I have a chisel itch again. Sounds nasty, doesn't it? Trust me, the consequences if I succumb are very nasty indeed...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Locked out

Bear with me, folks - the keyboard has succumbed to drink and isn't working anymore (half a glass of white wine. I know; I thought "what a waste" too...) Another is on order and should, with luck, be with me tomorrow or Wednesday. You'll have await a proper blogging until then 'cos this keyboard (and 'puter) is driving me nuts.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's woodworking, Jim...

...but not as we know it.

Barely had I taken breath to update on The Patient when we get about three hours notice that she's on her way home. So in three hours we had to move a load of furniture, dismantle and rebuild a bed, and sundry other preparations for Six Weeks on a walking frame. And verily, so it came to pass, and The Patient breathed a sigh of relief to be Home. 

I'm already missing hospital visiting. Certain People forget that nearest and dearest available (viz: two) do not equate to nursing and auxiliary staff on hospital word (viz: legion) and are inclined to line up the requests while the harassed ones are still trying to deal with the first thing...

However, that's by-the-by. Somewhat more pressing is giving The Patient access beyond one room; made a little tricky by the split-level nature of the house and the front-to-back depth required by the dreaded Zimmer. Now those steps are better than most, and in fact there's only one that's not deep enough, and here it is, stripped of it's concealing carpet and a dodgy bit of MDF - exposed to the world:

I know what you're thinking - is the plumber back. Nope, he was a couple of weeks ago. But I digress...

See that spirit level in the background? That revealed a slope in two directions, no less. Plus there's some very poor, loose cement work on the right hand side, with a little damp there too. However I've managed to find and cut to (a reasonable) fit a piece of 3/4" ply to extend the step to nearly two feet. Then I get to round its front edge and put some finish on it to dissuade the damp, while the Old Man replaces the poor cement with some better and tries to level the step off a little. Then back I'll come (so goes the plan, anyway) to make and fix a sort of open box to create the rest of the step, add shims as required to the existing step, screw the ply down and go on my way rejoicing, leaving him to sort out the carpet.

That's the plan anyway. Many a slip twixt cup and lip, of course... It is, I suppose, woodworking. Of a sort. Not exactly the sort I enjoy though.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Sorry, folks - got a little side-tracked.

Ankle update: operation went okay, patient now embarking on learning to deal with crutches. Once that's okay-d, homeward bound. Thank goodness; hospital visiting, while it's nice to see the old loved one, doesn't half eat away the day.

Culinary update: erm, not a lot actually. I was mulling over whether some rather elderly bananas were calling sufficiently loud enough to be turned into a banana and honey loaf, but I may have prevaricated long enough for them to have safely ripened beyond redemption. Just as well wood doesn't rot as fast or I'd never make anything... The Old Man did a fine roast chicken earlier this week, even unto his first bread sauce, entirely without my assistance. The latter may account for why it was so nice. Regrettably he's already dropped hints about a chicken pie, but with my cooking, it's less "nothing is as loving as something from the oven" and more a dangerous flirtation with Pie-induced Patricide...

Workshop update: time actually being spent therein. Oo-er, missus! Thanks entirely to LV asking for my arbitary prejudices, likes and dislikes to be brought to bear on something. Alas, 'tis not to be revealed, so you'll have to stay in ignorance. So while it is workshop time, it's not terribly productive as far as I'm concerned. But hey, it would be nice to delude oneself that it's productive for the R&D chaps; even if it's only in learning to bite their tongues and not say "what the h*** is this freaky-handed English dame talking about?!" ;-)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Craft, but not as we know it

Tsk. 'Tis a bleak world when the only workshop time is 2 minutes to test for someone whether the cutters for the Veritas plough plane might fit a Record 045C. And the only manual skill needed is the ability to roll pastry. 

But hey, keep the Old Man happy and it goes a long way to keeping the patient happy too. And yes, he asked if I was going to run a bead round it. I would have, but scratch stocks are notoriously poor performers in soft pastry...

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Downloading a selection of Radio 4 podcasts to keep the hospitalised-one amused, I ran across one with a discussion on Craftwork and Skill which readers may find interesting. I particularly liked Grayson Perry's idea of having "Creativity is mistakes" carved into the concrete of his workshop. Could be comforting to see when it's just "one of those days"... Unfortunately I fear it may be unavailable outside the BBC's area of coverage; many apologies overseas readers.

As for the hospitalised-one - the waiting is starting to get her down. We have everything crossed that the swollen ankle will be operable tomorrow. Many thanks for all the good wishes; they've been much appreciated. :-)  

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bailey Saws

I can almost hear the collective ears of the collecting readership perk up at the subject line. Leonard Bailey saws? Er, no. Whilst looking up a London silversmith online (as you do) I ran across the incredibly interesting "Proceedings of The Old Bailey" dating between 1674 and 1834. The Old Bailey, for the perplexed, being the Central Criminal Court in London. The existence of these records online could be old news to the readership for all I know, but in case you haven't already, a search of cabinet, maker and tools resulted in some fascinating accounts of fellows swiping tools, often immediately pawning them and carelessly leaving the damning pawn broker's "duplicate", or receipt, about their persons. (D'oh) Of course you also get told the value of the tools, which is quite interesting.

Anyway, saws seem to have been a very popular target, as well as the odd plane, rule etc (perhaps not a surprise if you recall this blog's previous dabble into tool theft 18thC style).  But you often can't help felling doubly sorry for the victim. Not only has he had his tools pinched, but he then, it appears, often has to do without them while the case is decided. Viz: Henry Allibone in 1799 had "a hand-saw, value 2s. and a tenon-saw, value 2s." taken. Having done all the legwork to find the villain and summon the constable, concluded his evidence (rather wistfully, it seemed to me) with the comment that "the constable has kept the tenon-saw, and the pawnbroker has kept the hand-saw".

So if you like that kind of thing, I recommend it. Here a few to get you started:
Feb 1767 - Pawnbroker gives poor return on 8s. worth of tools (if you've been watching "City of Vice" you'll probably spot the mention of Justice Fielding)
Feb 1788 - Accused gets familiar with iron bars and files before jail...
June 1789 - It was a fit up, claims accused
Sept 1794 - Shaky saw handle points nib at felon
Sept 1802 - "I took the tools and pawned them, thinking to get them out" confession
Jan 1803 - Phineas Kindred robbed (isn't that a wonderful name?)
Sept 1806 - Victim gives accused good character reference
Sept 1807 - Prisoner regrets defrauding workmate
April 1817 - Accused sells saws in another workshop
June 1818 - Cut and dried case gets seven years transportation
June 1821 - Wouldn't have liked to be in his shoes...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Another breakage

Okay, don't start - I have a really good excuse this time.  My mum's managed to break her ankle. 'Nuff said. So blogging, like workshop time, will be hit and miss for the foreseeable future. Supposed to be getting plates and such put in this afternoon, but other than that I know no more, so don't ask. :-)

And before you mention my recent run of breaking things; no, it wasn't me!