Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Skirting the issue

Now there's a punning title that mightn't work for those who read in 'Murricanese... Erm, 'Back to Baseboardics'? Yes, er, let's move on then...

For some reason the Old Man has come out in a terrible rash of home improvement. Small irritations we've been happily living with for years have suddenly vaulted to the top of the To Do List and he's been ripping things out, filling holes, painting walls, and oiling wooden window sills like it's going out of fashion. Indeed, the closest I'm come to woodworking is when I offered to do some of the aforementioned window sill oiling. It's also the closest I get to house maintenance; it's really Not My Thing. 

Anyway, one of the things he's ripped out is a small section of skirting board near the front door. Only to discover - as feared - that it was as rotten as a corrupt politician and replacement was required. Imagine my joy as that highlight of the week, grocery shopping, had added to it the further delight of bearding the denizens of 'Jewsons', builder's merchants, in their emporium in the search for matching skirting. Jovial senior Jewsonian, with whom we're long acquainted, was convinced they had the very thing and despatched us to the Outcast in the timber shed. The Outcast looked cold and fed-up, but applied himself and offered up the 'matching' boards. Which didn't. Match, that is. We sucked our teeth. The penalty of the old house, and thus the more subtle mouldings sometimes employed therein, is that the limited off-the-shelf range offered now seldom fits the bill. 

For some reason, the old war horse (me) scented battle. I heard myself saying "In that case we'll need a not-too-knotty board of the right size and we'll have to make our own. We have the technology."

Sometimes I really wish I'd just keep my big mouth shut...

Yes, Houston, we have woodworking. Or rather, I have to do woodworking. I mean I might have said "we" but it was always going to be me doing it, wasn't it?

So we selected the marginally least knotty six feet of 7" stuff and paid a sum for it that must put the price per cubic foot somewhere close to oak. I tried very hard not to wince as the Outcast used the rustiest, bluntest hardpoint saw to "cut" the required length. I say "cut" 'cos I'm convinced he used sheer determination to convince the board to part at that point. No way that saw did anything.

Anyway, before even getting onto the technical part of sticking the moulding, I had to run the board through the P/T to reduce the thickness, then follow up with the Stanley #5 1⁄2 to clean up the resultant mess. That's the proper 2 1⁄4" wide iron, old model and I do love it so. I'd forgotten. Oh, if only T L-N had elected to make his the original size. Sigh. But where was I...? Oh yeah, and I had to clean up and sharpen a few likely hollow and rounds as well. As long-term readers are aware - I have one or two from which to choose...

Once again I was witness to that intriguing phenomenon where any seldom-used plane apparently gets blunt between being put away and taken out for use again. It's not that the piskies come out at night and work up a few feet of mouldings for the architrave in their new semi-detached toadstool; it's simply one's idea of "sharp' alters in the intervening time. I was pleased that my ability to achieve my current idea of "sharp" hadn't entirely deserted me during the last year so I was able to get them at least usable. They need some more work to really sing though, but hands up anyone who actually relishes sharpening shaped cutters? Anyone? In that case I'll send them all to you and you can do them. ;)

So there I was; planes sharp (had a couple of Record ploughs lined up too - #043 and #044), board ready, bench top re-discovered, all set to put theoretical knowledge to practical purpose. Yes, kids, I know how it goes, but I've never actually had to do this before for real. Shocking, innit? Must admit, for preference, I'd have sooner broken my duck on the matter when I was in practice, rather than coming out of a year-long hiatus. But nothing ventured...

And you can find out how it went later in the week.

What? You didn't think I was going to use up all my woodworking on one blog entry, did you? ;)


  1. Skirting board (long ago) was the start of my noodlings with scratch stocks.

    Oh, and welcome back to the slope!!


  2. Way to go Alf - back in the groove! How appropriate is that metaphor for a boat anchor enthusiast?

    Nope, I've never moulded a whole length of skirting either. Just a short piece to replace a bit that fell off. Not as easy as I'd hoped. Knots are easy to spot but beware uncooperative grain in general.


  3. Hurrah. Let's hope this gives your ww mojo a good kick up the jacksie. :-D

  4. Great to see you back in the workshop, Alf. Looking forward to seeing the finished skirting.

    Cheers ;-)

    Paul Chapman

  5. ISTR reading somewhere that a sharp edge on, for example a carbon steel razor blade, will become blunter over time even if left in a sealed container with no humidity (so no rust).

    Not sure if that's true, but I do know (I used my school microscope to prove it) that a sharpened blade left in a box in a workshop will develop eensy weensy rustettes on the bare sharp edge and bevel, even if there is no sign of rust on the blade itself. I reckon that is how blades that haven't been used since they were put away sharp lose their edge.

    Although the romantic in me does prefer the piskies theory!

    Glad to see you back in the saddle or the lists or whatever. Who knows where this will lead!

  6. Ah. Not only do I have an Alf fix, but one in grand, story telling of old fashion.

    I could die a happy man now.

    Thank you Al.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    Take care, Mike

  7. This blog entry is a true joy to behold!

    It should be fun to see what tools in the hand and the smell of fresh shaved wood does to bring your spirits back. Bless that wall rot!

  8. Ahhh,

    And the world has resumed spinning upon its axis.



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