Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In A Spin

It's possible I've slightly slipped off the rust hunting wagon. Something followed me home this weekend:

Yes, yes, so I may already have one or two hand drills (or wheel braces, or eggbeaters, or call them what you will). And? So? I like them, and when I see a spoked drive wheel sitting in amongst some other examples, my hand just naturally reaches for it. Can't help myself. I drew it from its resting place and noted its elegant woodwork, the fact the side handle was there at all, the fine detail on the edge of the gear wheel, the odd projection just in front of the side handle... Huh? The tapped hole in the body just in front of the main handle... What? What?

Does the main handle fit there to turn it into a pistol grip? Oh yeah.

And of course, by then, I'd turned it over and seen RECORD is rudy great big letters on the gear wheel. A Record No.124 in fact. Now I felt a tingle then, because I don't see many of them, not to say any of them. Indeed I had a nagging memory in the back of my mind that all but one of the models of Record hand drill were rather short-lived.

Anyway, I gave it the once over; spins like a sewing machine; chuck jaws a bit sticky, but they move; but fundamentally it felt right. I asked the question - of my long-time tool-dealing acquaintance in Pool Market. He recognised it was a quality drill, but give him his dues, he didn't hoick up the price to anything I couldn't justify to myself. Mind you, I was up for a lot of justification on this one; sometimes tools speak to you, not in a shiny, blingy new tool way (although that can be fun too) but just by oozing that aura of "You will thank yourself for buying me every time you use me".* When that happens, putting it down and walking away can get hard.

*With the obvious caveat that it may actually be broken but you haven't found out where yet... But hey, the risk is part of the thrill of the hunt, or so I tell myself.

So I take it home in triumph and hit the 1938 Record catalogue No.15 reprint to see what it is I have. Chuck, Gears, yadda yadda... Handle: Hollow Hardwood. What? What? I check; this one is definitely solid. Eh? Frame, Finish, etc. Then:

"All the knobs are made of Bakelite..."

Zoicks, I hadn't even noticed. So now I'm looking up how to clean Bakelite. Great. Anyway, I gather from the introduction blurb to the reprint that the hand drills appeared in catalogue No.11 in September 1932, beyond that I'm in the dark. Consulting dealer catalogues of the time didn't help either. Time to hit the 'net.

Two relevant hits, both on First one tells me that No.124 was among the models that was last listed in the 1938 catalogue. That wasn't offered for long then. Second hit is on the Rare Record Tools page. The info seems a bit contradictory on the handle hollowness or otherwise, but that's a picture of my drill. Okay, in rather better condition, but the same model and features.


I threw myself on the wisdom of the Old Tools List to see if anyone knew if I should lay off the thing then and there, for fear of causing collectors of Record Tools physical pain, but the result was indecisive. So I'm going to clean it up and take it for a spin. After all, I am principally a user...

But first I was reminded of the the only other Record hand drill I've ever seen, and had yet to clean up. A late model No.123 (It's stamped 1964). Found it at the tip and was charged 50p for it (cheek); some enthusiast had drilled a hang hole through the handle at some point, and it was almost completely seized up, but everything was there, so why not?

Confucius say many things, but probably he neglected to mention that the Galoot out of practice in removing rust is advised to get their eye on something less vital before attacking a rather nicer drill. But if it had occurred to him, I'm sure he'd have considered it good advice. I certainly do, so it seemed like a good moment to finally bring that No.123 back into the land of the drilling before embarking on the 124.

As is my custom, I took it apart as much as possible; chuck, drive wheel, etc, and surveyed the damage. Some pretty crusty rust in a couple of key spots - on the chuck jaws:

Inside the chuck shell, and on the threaded area of the drive spindle:

If I couldn't get those working smoothly, the chuck would never work correctly, so I decided to take the risk and punch out the pin holding the drive pinion on the spindle. Thus I could get the latter out and dump the threaded end of it in some Hot'n'Strong (TM) citric acid solution much more readily. Leaving that, I nicked this excellent tip from Andy Seaman to clean the inside of the shell with some abrasive-inna-dowel-inna-drill. I felt a fool for not thinking of it myself, and cursed the time I've spent previously doing it by hand. Oh well. Anyway, the chuck shell came up like new, except for one area where there'd been particularly heavy rust. No matter, it was now smooth, which is the essential thing.

Stopping to check the spindle in the Hot'n'Strong, I moved to cleaning the jaws, conical washer doodah and play that game of patience known as "Cleaning Chuck Knurling". It's not perfect even now, but it's a lot better. The result was so much better better in fact, that I even viewed the three-handed juggling necessary to get the whole thing back together with something approaching equanimity.

After that, everything else is easy. A suitable awl to push the gunk from the gear wheel teeth; dunk the whole body with the idler pinion in some meths to loosen the latter up (works a treat and minimal effort); some non-woven abrasive to clean up the rust where the paint and plating has given up the ghost, and so forth. I even plugged the hang hole in the handle and refinished all the woodwork. The chuck got the lightest smear of grease inside and on the threads, all bare metal was waxed, oil where appropriate, and the result is a drill good for another 45 years I reckon.

Just what I needed; another hand drill. Well I find having to change drill bits such a bore, don't you...?

ETA: Should have included a shot of the spindle post-citric acid bath. As you can see, it dealt with that crusty area of rust just dandy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Woman vs. Tree

A perennial state of being for the female woodworker, of course. But this one really drove me nuts.
Oh, Alf, what a wag you are... No? No. Okay, don't throw things.

Yes, the annual effort to beat the local tree rat squirrel population to the nutty punch is complete. Armed with walking stick and rust hunting haversack (seconded for the purpose), I tackled the three nut trees here at Alf Towers. One of which is blessed with red nuts, as you can see. My, those things love to hide. You'd have thought a bright red nut might be quite noticeable. Not so. The blessed tree has red leaves, doesn't it...? I bet I'll go past there tomorrow and see at least half a dozen I've missed. Ah well, to the squirrels the leftovers; I'm not completely heartless.

Not having the squirrels natural capacity to climb trees, all I can say is thank goodness hazel's natural bendiness. Means you can hook the branches down low enough to actually reach them - hence the walking stick - but some are getting a bit strapping now, and it looks like a bit of coppicing will be on the cards this winter. What fun.
Anyway, the weigh-in revealed just over a kilo (or 2lbs odd) of nutty goodness. I am pleased.

If only I ate the darn things, I'd be ecstatic...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Names were duly put in the hat for the Lee Valley Veritas catalogues and two lucky winners drawn by an independent hand. She even closed her eyes to make absolutely sure of fairness - and missed the hat. The second and third attempts were more successful though, and thus Paul C's and Nick W's letter boxes are the ones to haunt if you want to intercept a copy. Or wait until they can't resist ordering something, and then intercept that perhaps... ;)

In other news, the push to finish the saw till doors meant that other things dropped down the To Do List. Naturally they've bubbled back up to the top and demand to be done. So I will get to the w'shop again, just... not quite yet. It has nothing at all to do with hiding behind the sofa from the prospect of building a bench. Nosir. Perish the thought.

Okay, maybe a tiny bit. But I'll deny it if challenged.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Well evidently absence makes the heart grow fonder - the standard of grovelling in my inbox is most impressive. If you haven't already, you have 'til Monday midnight to get your flattery in before I ask an independent person to pull two names from a handy hat.

Now what will all the saw till excitement, I neglected to tell of the deforestation that went on here at Alf Towers this time last week. In recent months it's seemed that fate has decreed my lot should be to move heavy lumps of wood on Fridays, and last week certainly didn't buck the trend. Bill The Fish (Not to be confused with Fulchester United's star 'keeper, Billy The Fish) door-to-door fishmonger and occasional chainsaw-wielder, has featured in the virtual pages of this blog before. For example. He was contracted to come and fell a laburnum that bit the dust this summer, and much to my chagrin, to lop a couple of branches off "my" eucalyptus too. Watching him do his stuff is generally enough to give any mildly 'elf'n'safety-conscious person the screaming ab-dabs, and but I managed to look long enough to get a pic for once.

And the resultant carnage. I felt quite sick - not least because the damn stuff is bugger all use for anything. Grr.

Oh, except for cats to pose artistically next to the felled flowers.

Of rather more use were the branches and trunk of the laburnum, which were duly sealed with wax at the ends and stowed under the potting shed bench. That's where the regularly scheduled Friday wood moving came in. It was a bit of a struggle to find room in amongst the existing bits of yew, plum, apple, pittosporum, etc.

One of these days I'll actually take a lump of stuff out from under there and do something with it on the lathe. Maybe. But it's like clamps, isn't it? You can never have too much wood...

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Nothing like a good book

As a woodworker returns to the blog, so does an annual tradition. Let the time-honoured announcement commence:

Three copies of the new Lee Valley catalogue have arrived upon my doorstep. Oooo, I hear you cry. Oooo, indeed. Online versions are all very well, but nothing beats the opportunity to put a big red circle round your heart's desire and leave it lying around in an prominent position in plenty of time for Christmas... Anyhow, 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, slightly edited, text:

For a copy of the Lee Valley & Veritas September 2010 catalogue to your door, (UK mainland - sorry overseas folks) free, gratis and for nothing, get an email into my inbox (website AT cornishworkshop DOT co DOT uk) 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 Monday.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

C'est finis

So the saw till got emptied and I tried to get it down. I failed.

That's not strictly true. If I'd worked at it a bit, I could have done it. If I'd been taking it down or moving it permanently, I would have done it. But when I knew I'd only be putting the thing up again? Nope. I decided to take a risk and hang the doors while the thing was still on the wall.

Three tools made this possible.
  1. The Yankee #41 push drill I got from Pennyfarthing Tools in 2008 shortly before I dropped off the face of the woodworking world. It's a thing of wonder and brilliance and I love it madly. Why was it ever let go out of production? It leaves the unwieldy bulk of a cordless battery-powered drill standing. Wonderful device.
  2. The flat-topped saw horse (Yet again) on which I was able to stand in comfort and security while I did the job. I have yet to be convinced of the benefit of the traditional narrow-topped saw horse in the workshop. If you're hauling it about on site, yeah, maybe, but wide tops rule here at Alf Towers.
  3. The Yankee #135 ratchet screwdriver. They weren't as popular as sliced bread for nuffink, you know.

Every other tool cabinet I've drooled over has put piano hinges on the outside like this, so I went with it. Easy to fit. Yeah, in an ideal world a little rebate to take it would be preferable, but planing a rebate vertically up the side of the till didn't appeal, oddly enough. It looks okay anyway, so that's the main thing.

As a bonus, the depth of the till is just right to take the bow saw, so a couple of brass cup hooks went in for the purpose while I was up there.

Things moved on apace towards the oft-distant finishing line, and taking pictures went out of the window in favour of just getting it done. I almost decided to declare it finished without any door knobs, on the principle that I'd do those later. Then I remembered I still have two doors and two drawers that I have to prise open with my fingers because of a declaration like that, so I decided to bite the bullet and finish every last thing. Another scrap of old window frame was duly found from which to turn a couple of door knobs. First turning for a long time, and an uncooperative tailstock and slightly dodgy grind on the spindle gouge conspired to make it take at least twice as long as it should have. But the end result isn't as bad as it looked like it was going to be at one stage... And yup, I'm afraid electrons were sacrificed for that. No treadle lathe about my person, unfortunately.

I believe I've mused before on the way the fiddly little bits seem to take almost as long as the major stuff? Well holders for certain select saws took a while. By all means imagine me cutting them out with bow saw and coping saw and fairing the lines with rasp and file. Imagine away. Unfortunately I forgot I was being hand tool biased and used bandsaw and drum sander. Sorry, sorry, sorry... I indulged in some fun making different styles of turnbuckle - purpleheart from the scraps box. (Not sure that's what I should call them, to be honest. What's the right word?) and I did use the coping saw for them, if that helps at all.

And there we are. First fielded panelled doors, and first go at making a pair of doors meet in the middle. It's far from perfect - the camera is a happy co-conspiritor in deception - but it doesn't look half bad.

Open sesame!

Another first - using rare earth magnets as door catches. The jury's out at the moment, but we'll see.

Anyway, at last the Wenzloff saws have a proper home where they can be seen - instead of two of them dwelling in their boxes, forever at risk of damage - and all of them hiding their good looks from the appreciative woodworker. Plus there's room for another one, methinks. ;) Even the flush cut saw that did such sterling work with the draw bore pegs has a hook to live on. What an improvement.

So, 'tis done. Even by my standards it's been with me a long time, this quick workshop project. Learnt some things, tried some things, definitely a better woodworker now than I was when I started. And that was its purpose, why it wasn't slapped together with ply and screws in a weekend - although that became a mighty tempting idea once or twice. That and housing all those saws of course. Let us not talk of the other half a dozen on pegs elsewhere, for whom there is no room.

Next up, the bench. Except I'm wondering if first I won't move that tenon saw holder up just a tad. Looks a little low, now I come to see it in photo form...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bench thoughts

So the workbench part of my brain still refuses to be idle, although the rest of me manages it all too well. Even as I was cleaning up the saw till door frames, I bethought me that it was a good example of why I should really be brave and try a workbench height as low as The Schwarz suggests.

I admit, I'm reluctant. 31", for such it would be if we follow the "knuckle joint of the pinkie" rule, seems so very low. But as I worked the far stile of the doors by holding the plane in front of me like a tea tray and swept it along, with nothing like the level of control I'd have wished for and barely any downward pressure at all, it occurred to me that if I could get above it a bit more, it'd have made my life considerably easier. And my shoulders would have thanked me too. So I'm practically decided I'll go for it.


I'm still vacillating on the matter of the tail vice, but I finally made up my mind that, however cool, the flip stop option was not for me. I love the idea, but it would have meant top stretchers, which I'm really trying to avoid. Eventually it dawned on me that any horizontal surface in the workshop always ends up with "stuff" on it anyway, so chances are I'd never be able to get to the flip-stop to actually flip it...

Meanwhile I'm just about getting straight in my head the order of events once I get started. Alas, the first one will be dealing with some light surface rust on machine tables. Sigh. Really it's a miracle it's not worse, as nothing was actually put in a long-term storage condition. More like the Marie Celeste where everything in the workshop was left as-is at the moment I left it. Heigh ho.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a workbench-related quote from 2001, from a writer who was, as I understand it, building his first bench at the time. 38" tall and with the stretchers bolted because "Workbenches, you see, are subject to a lot of racking back and forth. A plain old mortise-and-tenon joint just won’t hack it."

"With the bench complete, I was pleased with the price and the time it took, which was about 30 hours. However, I’m now itching to build a cabinet beneath the bench and to add a leg jack for planing the edges of long boards. Maybe I’ll get to that next issue, or maybe I’ll let a future granddaughter take care of those details."

Or maybe he went on to build another bench. Or twenty...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

sTill not done

After a certain amount of Real Life getting in the way, I finally got to levelling up the frames. After trying the Chinese #3 - which made lovely floaty shavings but was too slow; then the #5 1/2 - which was quicker, but then (Aaargh) managed to turn one stile into tear out city on the last pass (Why is it always the last pass?); I turned to a York pitch via the BUPP, known to the rest of the world as the Lee Valley Veritas Low Angle Jack. I love that plane. Honestly, it'll be the #5 1/2 in one hand and the BUPP in the other when they come to put me six feet under. Do I like 2 1/4" wide irons in a jack plane-sized plane? Yessir, I do indeed.

Anyway, the BUPP breezed through the job. Yes, so I had to remove a fraction of rust from it with one of those excellent Garryflex blocks first (it's been a while, for heaven's sakes), but you'd never know. Which is good, because someone with a rusty BU jointer on WoodNet ended up being sent a replacement body by El Presidente, and nothing will get me tapping another hole in a BU jack body just because some Canadian dude takes customer service to extremes like that. Nosir. ;) Anyway, whispy shavings, flush joints, wipe on a speck of shellac, yadda yadda:

So the rails are rather more noticeably different that I'd expected, but that may be partially because the panels aren't as noticeably stripy as I'd expected. In other words I'd assumed the whole thing would look like the patchwork it is, and instead it's not nearly as bad as it should be. But no matter, press on regardless.

Except now I have the twin horrors of
  1. Emptying the saw till in order to take it down to fit the doors. And...
  2. Hanging doors.
I don't like hinges. In truth I've not had much chance to acquire the taste for them, but the limited experience I do have is not encouraging. I have an indecent amount of piano hinge, so that's going to damn well get used, no matter what. Other than that, my plan is... fluid. If anyone has any wise words on the matter before I start, the comments box awaits you with open arms. No rush - I can feel myself hitting a wall of prevarication... (ETA: Or, as a commenter notes, perhaps I meant procrastination. Knowing me, I may well yet manage to indulge in both ;)