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...