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... ;-)