Monday, December 12, 2011

So you've heard of palm routers...

The Parcel Farce man cometh - eventually. Much loveliness, most of which will be put away for more careful study around Christmas (except the tool-covered shopping bag, which will lighten my mood during the weekly shop tomorrow), but if you're curious, I did seem to get fairly carried away in the measuring section of the LV website. Hey there's no point accurately cutting to a line unless the line's in the correct place, right?

However, couldn't resist having a teeny look at a teeny plane, as has become tradition in recent years.
You'd think by now I'd have got over the "Oh my word, it is small, isn't it?!" reaction to these, but nope, apparently not. I am once more utterly taken by its cuteness and therefore have become its slave forever. Arguably this slavery happens pretty much with every plane, regardless of size, but the cuteness is completely irresistible.

Oh, El Presidente? Could we have a miniature felling axe next year, so I may cut down a small fir tree to be decorated with these as the ornaments? Pretty please? Or a miniature spokeshave might be fun. Or, ooo, maybe a tiny chisel... Oh, who am I kidding? Look, let's just cut to the chase and go straight for a miniature toolkit in a miniature tool cabinet. Or miniature tool chest, for those so inclined. Brilliant, right? Fire up the R&D elves and I'll start saving now...

Friday, December 09, 2011


A ransom demand from Parcel Force has arrived. A parcel from Canada. Woot! Okay, so opting for surface mail clearly hasn't worked to avoid the customs duty (Sigh), but it does mean I've pretty much forgotten what I ordered (Surprise!)

Except I now have to wait until Monday to find out.

Something tells me it's going to feel like a long, long weekend...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tools in Them Thar Hills

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Katie Penna at Tresamble Trading, a new venture purveying fine tools. Mainly gardening, but branching out into woodworking tools too - and locally, here in the back of tool beyond that is Cornwall. Woot. How I didn't feel the pull of rust in the vicinity, I know not, but I know of it now, and as I was in the area, stopped off yesterday at the market in Truro to say "Howdy" in person.

Kids, it was a good thing I had no cash on me, because a rather nice panel gauge (which you can probably spot in the dismal pic that is all my iPod is able to divvy up) and a very spiffy chamfer plane (Which I failed to include in the frame, but registered highly on the gizmocity scale for a woodie) both sang their siren song. But I was good and plugged my ears. I may have lain awake thinking about them for only a couple of hours last night and wondering if I was foolish not to hightail it down the road to the bank and withdrawing the necessary then and there. But no, I was good. And I may have blown my non-existant tool budget just recently anyway...

Anyway, there is a website, but there are plans to include more stock on it and so forth, so I'll probably blog again when that happens and I add it to Ze Master List.

More local tool purveying is always a Good Thing, and there do seem to be quite a few interested parties knocking about so the interest in old tools is certainly alive and well in Cornwall. As Katie observed, it's a shame there isn't a local gathering of same really. Apparently even the Devon & Cornwall branch of TATHS has ceased to be, which is a shame.

Although I can talk - I've never joined TATHS. Whenever I considered it and how the events and meetings are all far up country, when it came to the crunch and the question of the membership fee I couldn't help thinking "But I could buy tools with that!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Chisel By Any Name revisited

If the reader would cast their mind back a little to here, you'll recall I asked for thoughts on what those particular narrow trapezoid-shaped chisels one sees about the place were specifically sold as. I meant to follow this up much sooner, but Life and all that jazz intervenes, as it is wont to do.

Anyway, here are a couple of other 1/8" chisels we have sculling about the w'shop, which seem to me to narrow down the options. At the bottom we have our trapezoid by James Howarth; above that my old man's Wm. Marples bevel-edged firmer, which is actually a hair under 1/8"; finally a OVB mortise by Isaac Greaves. The latter some of you might fancy to call a guinea-pig sticker, I suppose. If you were that way inclined. I'll forbear from comment if you do...

So our un-named chisel style could, I suppose, be a straight-sided firmer. It's not impossible they'd be made so noticeably different from the bevel-edged, just for the sake of strength. But personally I did immediately warm to Joel's thought that they were used in caning chairs; it rings true. Of course you might argue we see them so regularly, this seems unlikely - but then cane seats were a lot more prevalent in days of yore (Almost as bad a phrase as "Yesteryear" - my apologies). However, the clinching argument for their widespread appearance is probably best summed up by many of the comments you all left as in any other way.

Viz: Every woodworker can think of a task where a handy narrow chisel like that would have/will come in handy ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Linking the generations

Never underestimate aunts; just ask Bertie Wooster. Unlike Mr Wooster though, my aunts have tended to be fairly pleasant coves and one has outdone herself this week. A parcel from same arrived in the post yesterday, and unwrapping it revealed to my wondering eye the following:
One virtually pristine No.260 tape measure by Rabone & Sons.

In its slightly battered, but rather fetching original box.

All complete even unto the care instructions.

Wow. I mean wow. But that's not the best bit by any, um, measure. No, sir. 'Cos this well-cared for tape belonged to a Master Plasterer from Southampton; none other than my Great Grandfather. I had assumed all his tools were long gone - and indeed, all the others are - but this one survives. Result!

Plus I got a little extra history about him as a bonus. Apparently he did the ornate plasterwork for Rothschild's house at Exbury. Rothschild? Heck, he must have good at his job, methinks. Gotta say that's a heck of a better legacy than the one my generation will leave. "What did Great Grandpa do? He was an accountant..."

Anyway, two other things beyond "This is pretty cool" struck me. Firstly, the irony that a tool has been handed down the female line. Secondly, that maybe not all white spots on old tools are paint. Maybe some of them are plaster...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I just ran across this in one of my other online lives (Yes, I have several, and we're all very happy in our different online worlds, thank'ee. We're never short for conversation amongst ourselves, and we're even quite entertaining sometimes.)

(But I digress.) Now I believe one is probably supposed to think how picturesque (or picture-skew as we have it here at Alf Towers), look at the light, pretty flowers, and so forth. Y'know, the whole atmospheric photograph shebang.

I took one look and thought:

No wonder the top of that table is warped to b*gg*ry if some barsteward puts damn flowers in water all over the top of it. Furniture killer. Die. Die. Die.


So, yeah, I may have had that reaction before. Pretty much any time I see my mother going anywhere near any woodwork with a watering can in her hand, akshully. She likes plants; I like wood without water marks. It's a domestic situation made in hell, if we're honest. But I staple my tongue to the floor to avoid saying anything about it, and she usually remembers to take a cloth to wipe up any spills immediately, so we muddle along without excessive bloodshed.

Anyway, looking beyond my initial reaction, this is evidently fairly "country" in style. Overlaid front rail; don't think I've seen that before. T&G top - or is that actually a loose tongue? Pegged tenons though, which is probably all that's keeping the whole thing from falling apart. So, no, not Chippendale, but that's a useful little table. C'mon, non-woodworking world. Have a heart. Put a coaster under those damn flowers, okay?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Seven Year Itch

Would you believe it's seven whole years today since I started this blog? No, me neither. Don't bother going and looking at the inaugural post though - it's not 'ticularly interesting. Anyway, apparently Copper or Wool is the traditional material to mark seven years. Pish, sez I. Yea, even Tush. Iron and steel it is then:

Despite everyone's best efforts to get me to buy more chisels on Saturday, I only came away with this combination square. I never buy squares usually, but it appealed to me somehow - and I do seem to be in a metrological frame of mind at the moment. I got the general impression that the collective tool gurus present reckoned I was slightly off my nut buying it, but hey, a girl gets to the point where she needs to get her hands on something freshly rusted and painted-spotted, and this fit the bill all-too admirably.

A bit of TLC and elbow grease later, and a not displeasing result.

Nothing particularly special - as far as I can gather, Stanley churned No.21s out by the thousands over the years. But I like it; it feels good in the hand (and considerably better than the fancier, more expensive, and newer 12" combi square I already own - and never use as a result).

At some point I must find the patent and discover the purpose of the slot. I've got a vague impression of some sort of sliding bevel feature, but have yet to explore it fully. 'Cos yeah, I needed another thing that could do duty as a sliding bevel like I need a hole in the head. Or another chisel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Woodworking Lingo

According to my mother, my style of speaking changes when I've been reading old Woodworker annuals. More emphasis on detail, apparently. Hopefully the effects of 1930s workshop practice won't spread to my appearance, because I'm not sure the tie, waistcoat and moustache look is really me...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A chisel by any name would cut as sweetly

Apologies to the reader - didn't intend to leave things for a week without further postings. Things cropped up, not least the thorny subject of chisel nomenclature. That, as you're probably aware, is a deep, dark swamp into which many have ventured and few have emerged with credit. In fact I now attempt to dodge the bullet and offer up a chisel or two and ask the reader what he/she would call them.

Because I'm cowardly that way.

So, two examples of the type - narrow tang, widening out an inch or so to maximum depth of blade, before tapering down again. Usually pretty short, always narrow. Usually 1/8in. or so, but the bottom one in this case is a bare 1/16in. That, my friends, is mega narrow for any chisel.

I've never thought of them as narrow bench chisels, simply because my old man has a 1/8in. chisel by Mr Marples and his boys, and it's nothing like that. I've always sorta assumed they're a variety of mortise chisel, possibly for some specific purpose (not a rare one, because they turn up frequently enough), but having found myself in possession of that ultra narrow one, I'm rather more uncertain of their use than before. Cursory inspection of Salaman and an old Marples catalogue has provided no enlightenment. I'm not saying the answer isn't out there, just that presently I don't have the spare brain power to go looking for it. So now is your opportunity to shine, gentle reader - what sayeth you? The comments box is open.

Meantime, I may have just succumbed to the joys of secondhand books via the interweb (again) and another volume of the Woodworker for my, um, collection. All being well, 1933 should this way come shortly. That'll keep me busy...

Monday, October 03, 2011

From Ancients to Modern

Now this could be incredibly brilliant planning on my part (except it's not) but while we're in chisel mode chez Alf, first pics of the eagerly (and long) awaited chisels from Lee Valley/Veritas whisper their way onto the interweb. Viz, here and here. Unfortunately both posts on WoodNet, who's archives go to the big virtual wastepaper basket in the sky after one calendar year, so I hope the OPs will forgive me if I yank them onto here for the benefit of posterity.

Okay, for my benefit then.

Ah, the joys of the blurry mobile phone camera - just enough info to be tantalising, but not enough to see clearly. But to me, at least, they look better in the "flesh" than they do in the poster. Although I must admit my pulse is not racing with desire even then.

These are much clearer, but smaller. *sob* Guys, what are trying to do to us here? Kill us?!

So what can we learn from these? Well less than from El Presidente's follow up post, which I will thus also shamelessly append (Hey, this is the least typing I've ever had to do for a longish blog post. Sweet!)

"The chisels themselves were designed to have a centre of gravity at or below the tang/socket connection. the tang is turned and barbed, and has flats to prevent the handle from rotating. The socket is turned from solid, and has a closed end (except for where the tang comes through. It seats directly onto the shoulder of the blade, which is completely lapped on the back. The blade has virtually no side lands - I say "virtually", as we don't actually leave them with a knife edge. The handle are a caramelised maple (and smell like maple syrup!) at an very very low moisture content ( they've been baked at about 170 degrees to convert the sugars in the wood during the caramelisation process); so when mounted to the blade, seat well into the socket, and held with the barbed tang.

"The handle also have shallow flats parallel to the the blade back for purposes of tactile cues. This is a feature that many people like (myself among them). I'd sure like to hear other we may consider offering a choice..."

Can I just admit that the first thing I took away from this was "caramelised maple" and it made me hungry just reading it?

Anyway, O-1 steel first, ready for Christmas or *whimper* soon after. Fancy, all-singing, all-dancing vunder steel more like the middle of next year, it seems.

Now it's monstrously unfair to judge a tool on some blurry/small pictures, but that's never stopped me before... At the moment, I confess I'm... well, it's not love at first sight. I'm having aesthetic issues with the way that blade is blending (or rather not blending) into the socket. It's also kinda disappointing that the handles don't seem particularly user-friendly replacing-wise. Tang and socket is generally a PITA to get right. However I love the completely lapped back thing, and it sounds like they tick many a desirable box technically; bevel edges, point of balance, attention to detail on the handles. But.

Well let's put it this way - I know many, many people love their Ashley Iles bench chisels, but every time I've seen one at a show and thought "Self, you don't have one of these yet. How about it?" I've never yet been able to bring myself to actually buy one, because I just hate look of their socket-like bolster/ferrule combination. In other words, despite my abiding love for all things chisel, I am fundamentally very shallow and easily swayed by appearance. So, at the moment, I confess I'm not feeling quite as much excitement for these chisels as I was before.

And that, gentle reader, actually kinda sucks :(

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wisdom of The Ancients

There seem to be two schools of thought on the validity of The Way It Used To Be Done. Until recently, the most prevalent seemed to be "Progress is good, two feet bad". I may have mixed my slogans a little there, but you get the gist; improvement is the goal and we know heaps more than those ignoramuses who came before us. This is clearly not always the case. (Please see good old Barry Bucknell and his crusade to swathe every panelled door in 1950s Britain with hardboard as an example.)

Recently, particularly in the hand tool world, it seems more like the rose-tinted safety glasses and "it were better when my several-greats granddad were alive" has gained the upper hand. I'm not always a great proponent of that one either, and to coin a phrase: Here's (one example) why.

One 1 & 1/8in firmer chisel of solid and, I suggest, fairly old manufacture.

'Tis by "James Cam", an old and well-regarded maker of steel goodies for the discerning woodworker. Indeed, so well-regarded, that his name continued to be used well after his demise. This is never a good thing if you want to tie down a date for a tool, and the James Cam timeline is still rather up in the air anyway. Suffice it to say it's older than a Marples splitproof anyway.

Obviously it is, 'cos it's, um, split. Not even boxwood either, and thus I undermine my own argument of yesterday just a tad. But moving on... Appreciate that nice octagonal bolster, why don't you? And if you look closely, you can probably make out what appear to be file marks on the similarly octagonal handle. Sometimes I think we all take entirely too much trouble over the prettiness of our chisel handles. Not that such an observation is going to stop me, mind you...

Now this Cam came among the goodies of the coachbuilder's kit, and the owner of same left us much evidence that he liked to adapt and repurpose tools. Unfortunately this chisel didn't escape, and has been reground into a turning skew, to go with one or two other tools similarly adapted for turning purposes.

Legitimately, you may be saying at this point "But Alf, it might have always been a turning tool. It looks sturdy enough for the lathes of yesteryear". To which I'd respond that yes, it does and please don't use the term "yesteryear" because it makes me nauseous. There's just one thing though...

I've over-layed a line on the identical bottom shot, just to make it clearer. Know what that line is? Yes, it's where the hard tool steel is laminated to the rest of the softer chisel body. See where it stops? See where the "cutting" edge of this home-brew skew is? Yes. Exactly.

Sometimes our forebears were just as daft as we are.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No cheeky butt jokes, please

My only butt chisel. Which I acquired the old fashioned way - or what I suspect was the old fashioned way - by repurposing a rather worn down and handle-less Marples & Sons 1" bevel edged firmer.

Rehandled with boxwood - something I tend to avoid now, however much I love it (and I do). You know how folks lust after completing sets of Marples chisels with the boxwood carver handles? Well I've got quite a few of those handles as it happens - all in the pile of "small exotics" for turning into something else, because, yup, they've split. Of all the split and knackered chisel and gouge handles I've seen (and would you believe I've seen a few?) the bulk of them were boxwood. It's not fancy or even remotely sexy, but opting for ash and beech handles are to be much preferred if you don't want to get into rehandling. Tip o' the day.

So amazingly, no set of butt chisels here, but I do have another short and handle-less 3/4" Marples that's crying out for the same repurposing. Hmm, maybe I'll have to give in and make it a boxwood handle after all, just so they'll match...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Chinese Way

So I thought I'd go into some of the other candidates suggested as the "odd one out". PeteW came up with lots to work with. Viz:

Extreme top-left, appears to be your only oriental-style chisel

Which is quite true. The Japanese set I was curious about and decided to try was kicked into touch many years ago now; the hollows in the backs just didn't suit me and that was that. Now contain your surprise, but I came to own this chisel because I was also... curious. Yeah I know, you didn't see that coming at all.

It's a Chinese stylee broad chisel with an HSS blade soldered to the body (Or maybe braized? Like I know the difference...) Think I may have got it from Rutlands in a moment of weakness. Or maybe Workshop Heaven? Neither of them have them any more though, which I'm inclined to think may be our loss.

Dim memory suggests it came to me under the auspices of the Mujingfang label, and if you've ever seen El Presidente's photos of their state of the art plane factory, you can certainly see chisels along the same theme in use to make those surprisingly excellent tools. You can probably also hazard a guess at the equally state of the art production that makes the chisels...

Okay, the back isn't pretty, it's true, but wait to you see the other side:

It's, um, "honest". No artifice here. No surplus polishing or grinding. It's some bits of metal all whacked together and clobbered until they made a chisel. I rather like it; kind of a connection with Western chisels of yore and they're similar habit of taking the minimum of cutting steel and making it go a long way.

And seriously, don't let the looks fool you - it takes a wicked edge and I have no hesitation in belting the snot out of it when necessary. Does it care? Does it wilt in the face of such abuse? It does not. Yeah, I've chipped the edge and all sorts, but it's HSS, so Hah! Take it to the grinder with impunity and have at it; in no time you can have that wicked edge right back.

So far I've stamped on my curiosity sufficiently to resist purchasing any more Chinese style chisels, but it's not easy 'cos I've heard good things about these...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Apocalypse Now

Pausing from the chisels for a moment, in the comments box here, Dave was inexplicably moved to ask:

"God knows why the question just occurred to me, but Alf (and anyone else reading) - out of all of your thousands of tools, do you have a special favourite? A desert-island-tool, if you will!"

Scraping the desert island factor (if we're not to drown in axes, machetes and Leathermans) suppose you had 30 minutes to do a "supermarket sweep" of your tools and gather up the tool kit you wanted, which tool would you grab first, just to make darn sure you wouldn't forget it? Might be the most useful, but equally it might be the one with the most sentimental value, or the one with the most bells and whistles. Which would you choose?

After wincing at the idea for, um, a couple of days, and hoping that such an apocalypse will never actually befall me, I gave it some thought and opted for...

...the Record #043 mini grooving plane.

More specifically, my dad's #043. Technically I've, um, swiped it off him, but I don't think he minds. (Shhh, don't tell him, just in case he does mind...) As you see, it has custom short rods, which I made, and also a custom lignum vitae fence face made for me by BugBear. It also pretty much acted as the catalyst for my descent into plough and combination plane addiction; little did I know where that would take me. Add to that the fact it's just one darn useful and handy plane, and it ticks so many boxes for me, I couldn't really dream of choosing any other tool. First into the tool chest when The Schwarz comes round with the Limited Tool Kit police ;)

So that's mine. But the comments box is open; what would you choose?

(Talking of the comments box, anonymous comments are getting swallowed as spam, kids, and I'm pretty sure I'm not catching them all. Put a name to them, 'k? Thank you muchly)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shark Week

As I seem to be in the mood, this blog might just focus on chisels for a while. (Surprise) Kinda like Shark Week, except it may or may not last as long as a week, depending on my mood. Or maybe longer than a week. And there are no sharks.

Having said which, the odd one out I had in mind was indeed the "Where's Waldo?" candidate. (Or as it's called here in Blighty, "Where's Wally?". Possibly because anyone walking about in red and white stripes like that would naturally tend to be described as a bit of a wally...)

Anyway, this is a E A Berg 1031 series 3/8"/10mm chisel with the famous Shark logo. (See what I did there?)

It came to Alf Towers in a state of abject misery, and has stayed to become something of a favourite. In the normal scheme of things I wouldn't have touched it with a Ten Foot Pole (Or any other Eastern European of abnormally tall stature - I'm an equal-opportunities employer. Or rather, in this case, non-employer.) However, at the time there was a lot of chatter about the joys of Berg chisels on't fora, vis-a-vis the superior quality of their steel, and I was curious.

My being curious gets me into all sorts of trouble, tool-wise. You may have noticed.

So this thing was basically a length of rust with a handle. Indeed the blade was so rusty a previous owner had declined to have it anywhere near their pot of Pure Brilliant White emulsion, and had instead stirred the paint with the handle. But it was the only Berg I'd ever seen before or since, so I had to have it. Didn't I? I believe I was (over) charged 20 new pence for the thing. Or one fifth of a pound sterling. Or about 30 cents at the current exchange rate. The paint on the handle was thrown in for free.

Having absolutely nothing to lose, and only less rust to gain, I threw the thing at the belt sander, and as is often the case in life when you have nothing to lose and thus take no particular trouble at all, it came out beautifully. Okay, so by the time I'd found steel it wasn't actually 10mm wide any more, but just a hair under 9mm, but I also had slightly finer bevels as a result too. So it was a win-win.

And only a couple of hour's work to lose the paint off the handle... Well, most of the paint.

Now the astute observer will have gathered that I'm not a fan of plastic handles. At all. But this puppy? Man, it is so comfortable, it's ridiculous. Fits my hand "just so", doesn't roll off the bench, gives an instant tactile feedback on which way the back's facing. It's brill. If I wasn't such a lazy so-and-so I would make oval handles just like it for a whole bunch of chisels. Alas, it's so much easier to slap something on the lathe and make it round. Sigh. It's not easy being a lazy so-and-so sometimes...

So there we have the E A Berg. The 1031 are made under the Bahco brand now, and I don't know if the steel is as good. If it is, well if I'm ever in the market for some more plastic handles, I think I'd give them a shot first.

Tomorrow, or maybe Wednesday, from plastic handles to Made in China. Can this blog stoop any lower...?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

As Imelda Marcos is to shoes...

... so, apparently, am I to chisels and gouges. I knew this, but... not to this extent. Now you can see why it's taken me many months to get up the courage to return to the Spring Cleaning and stare my chisel problem squarely in the face.

Having looked it squarely in the face, I shall now run away and sit in a corner, hugging my knees and rocking back and fro. This is not a wide range of tools from which to choose - this is an actual problem.

But while I seek therapy, the truly bored reader might like to spot the odd one out. Or "an" odd one out, perhaps. I'm sure you can come up with a few beyond the one I'm thinking of, because there really are surprisingly few duplicates in there. No, really. As long as significant details like different makers represented across approximately half a dozen 1/4" chisels qualifies in your mind as "no duplicates". As obviously it does in mine...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kingshott's Kit

Found another entry for our occasional series of British Woodworking Writers' Suggested Tool Kits, so thought I'd share. In this case, Mr Jim Kingshott from his book on The Workshop. For some reason RJK seems to be rather better regarded across the Pond than here in his native land, possibly helped by the availability of his four videos/DVDS over there. Plus he used to write for Traditional Woodworking, which seemed to me was always the forgotten magazine of UK woodworking. Anyway, on with the kit:

Basic Kit

Jack plane
Steel smoothing plane
9in try square
2ft steel rule
Marking knife
26in crosscut saw, 8 or 9 ppi
10in Tenon saw
Combination mortise and marking gauge
Firmer chisels 3/8in, 1/2in, 3/4in, 1in
Warrington 8oz hammer
Medium oilstone
Screwdriver, 8in cabinet pattern
Fine nail punch
Pincers, 8in
Ratchet brace, 8in or 10in sweep
Twist bits: 1/4in, 3/8in, 1/2in, 3/4in [Auger bits for the brace]


As a Basic Kit goes, this is not dissimilar to Charles Hayward's - and, I reckon, lacks in much a similar way. Not a bevel edged chisel among them? And in RJK's case, none of them smaller than 3/8in, forsooth?! And no means to efficiently make rebates or grooves either. I'd also have recommended anything but a combination mortise/marking gauge. They seem like a good, and economic idea, but those things eat fingers. So, thus far I'm a little ho-hum. Onwards:

Supplementary Tools

Panel saw 20in, 10 or 12 ppi
Dovetail saw, 22 or 24 ppi
Coping saw
Fore or panel plane in metal [RJK was, of course, a big fan of the infill plane]
Block plane, 60 1/2 or 9 1/2 (both if you can afford them)
Metal fillister Record No.778
Bullnose plane, 1in cutter
Shoulder plane, 1 1/4in cutter
Plough plane or combination with cutters
Bevelled-edge chisels; 5/8in, 7/8in, 1 1/4in
Gouges (obtain as and when needed)
Screwdriver bit [Presumably for the brace]
4in and 12in try squares
Mitre square
Sliding bevel
Cutting gauge
Dividers with screw adjustment
Pin hammer, 3oz
Spokeshaves, one flat sole and one round sole
Fine oilstone


Well this is more like it, and again a lot of similarity with Hayward. Still no narrower chisel listed though, which surprises me - unless we should be blaming a typo somewhere, about which I'm starting to wonder. On the other hand, "plough plane or combination" makes my combination plane-loving little heart swell with love for the late RJK...

Recommending two block planes strikes me as interesting though, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many a woodworker, the more they do, the less they find themselves using block planes at all - I'm one of them, which is slightly ironic given how many of the darn things I have. The old school, classically-trained woodworker, will often seem to regard the ownership of a block plane at all as utterly superfluous and tend to look at the modern amateur a trifle pityingly for even wondering about getting one. But two?! One low angle and one standard angle? If I recall El Presidente correctly, LV only make a standard angle 'cos the educational establishments call for it - owing to the ham-fisted yoof in days of yore having an uncanny ability to bust the more delicate low angle bed on a 60 1/2. So you gave them a more robust 9 1/2 instead, right? But this is a kit for a novice joiner and/or cabinetmaker - a kit whose list includes an expensive and equally vulnerable shoulder plane - so robustness is not an issue. And if it is, you wouldn't be recommending a 60 1/2 in the first place, would you?

In short, I am, I freely confess, utterly perplexed at the double block recommendation in a supposed Starter Hand Tool Kit. Any reader who cares to enlighten me, the comments box welcomes you with open arms - there may even be tea and biscuits.

On the whole I'm still inclined to favour John Brown's list as being the most comprehensive and avoiding the trap of trying to give a pared down list of "basics" that really, IMO, fall just short of being truly useful. Only black mark is his lack of a plough plane. Sigh. Anyway, comparing them all, it does give a fairly good idea of what really are the essentials, and which are the individual's pet likes. You never know, that might be useful to someone.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Draw, not drawer

The Hat Has Spoken, and... Bad luck, you're in Slytherin.

Saints forgive me, I've just referenced That Damn Wizard in my blog. Shoot me now.

But before you do, congrats to Nick and Evergreen, to whom a shiny, un-thumbed copy of the LV catalogue will shortly be winging. Just as soon as I've got over the poorly concealed daylight robbery that are UK postal charges. Hmm, anyone got an owl I could borrow...?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Say cheese

Coupla folks in the comments box expressed wonder and amazement at how I was able to take a photo of my own hands. A more reasonable question might have been "Why?", but moving on... I did briefly like the Bionic Man/Steve Austin idea, until I remembered that didn't the action figure have a hole in the back of his head so you could see through his "bionic" eye? Or was that an Action Man? Either way, I went from "Cool" to "Eewww" pretty quickly. Anyway, it's not that, although the answer is because I actually do have the technology.

I have two (okay, three) words for you: "Tripod" and "Self Timer". Or as I call them "Camera stand thingy" and "Timey thing". I'm all about the techno speak, me... I think I tend not to call the tripod a, well, a tripod, because of being scarred (and scared) in my youth by that Saturday afternoon Doctor Who wannabee, The Tripods. I don't think it's very likely that humanity will be enslaved by a camera accessory, but better safe than sorry, eh?

A tripod is pretty much the first step to take towards workshop picture nirvana; makes a heap of difference. Plus, even if you don't intend to bore the rest of the woodworking world to death with your pictures, a tripod and the video mode on your digital camera pointed at you while you plane, chisel, saw etc, can provide surprisingly useful feedback on your techniques. Try it; you might be surprised at what you actually do rather than what you think you're doing. Pretty sure the car boot/flea market trawlers among you could pick one up for a song - or maybe not even that much. Perhaps just the first verse and half the chorus...

Anyway, here ya go - visual proof of how it's done, and not a bionic eye in sight:

There, all the magic is gone forever.

Or is it...? For how on earth did I take that picture?!

No, there was no-one but me in the w'shop at the time.

No, I do not have a prehensile tail just out of shot. But gosh, wouldn't that be handy for those tricky glue-ups?

You want to know?



Okay then:

Boring, innit? A borrowed camera on a nifty Ilford camera holding thingy, clamped to the WoodRat. The alert and long-memoried reader might remember it arrived chez Alf, somewhat bizarrely, among the contents of the coachbuilder's tool chest. All cleaned up now, and really very good. It can even take the weight of my, much larger, camera. I'm thinking I might rig up something to clamp it to that I can drop in the bench dog holes and have nifty, on-bench, camera-holding ability at the drop of a dog.

And before I go, still time for UK folks to drop their name in the hat for a copy of the 2011 Lee Valley catalogue! Details here. Although the standard of grovelling thus far is, I have to say, patchy.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

September Gives Away

Dunno about you, gentle reader, but there's been a definite autumnal (or fall) vibe about the place already. You know how sometimes summer drags its heels and you're surprised that it's September already? Well this year, around here at least, the world hung up its metaphorical flip-flops and started to wonder where it had put its boots and gloves pretty much as soon as the last weekend of August was done. Slightly depressing, to be honest. But it's not all doom and gloom, for the arrival of September also heralds this time-honoured announcement:

Once again, three copies of the new Lee Valley catalogue have arrived upon my doorstep. Oooo, I hear you cry. Oooo indeed, for before even hitting the desirable content, its cover alone is a positive festival of Hand Drill Gorgeousness which, naturally, appeals to me very greatly. So much, in fact, that I felt obliged to provide a much bigger screencap of same than usual, just so we could all have a drool together. Off you go - I'll wait.

Okay? Done? Right. The gizmo in the centre's pretty darn extraordinary, innit?

Anyway, 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... So, being as how nature has provided me with only one pair of eyes, that leaves two copies up for grabs. Only just, mind you, as I was tempted to remove the cover from one copy and frame it... Anyway, 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 2011 catalogue to your door, (UK mainland only - 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 Sunday (11th)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Wazzat den?

I get quite a few requests for tool identification, one way of another. I quite like the ones on an open forum, because generally discussion expands and everybody learns something.

Email requests of the "I'm about to sell these tools on eBay - what are they and what are they worth?" I'm less enamoured with. No-one learns anything but the seller, a complete stranger, who - not to put too fine a point on it - is looking to make extra profit off knowledge I've taken time and trouble to acquire. Amazingly enough I wasn't born into the world knowing this stuff. My fairy godmother failed to gift me with a copy of Salaman's Dictionary and the 3rd Edition of British Planemakers at my cribside. (I know, I know. You just can't get the calibre of fairy godmother these days.) In other words they've got a ruddy nerve asking me, and these days I just tend to delete and not even suggest they look up completed auctions on eBay.

Harsh, ain't I?

Often the most fun can be found viewing stuff "in the flesh". It's a downside of having lived around here and interested in old tools for sufficiently long that enough folks know who I am when I wander round a car boot sale. As a result it's very hard to buy rusty crud when you're supposed to know what you're buying. One has a reputation for discernment, don'tcha know - I don't know how or why, but apparently one does... And then you also get the testers. The "So then Alf, you'll know what this is?" with a grin and a general feeling that you're suddenly surrounded by banana skins. Reckon it's just about a score draw when it comes to correct identification vs. falling on my posterior, but a good laugh is had by all...

But then there are the genuine "What's this then?" Yes, there are banana skins available here too, but we've all got an equal chance of slipping on them. Yesterday, in a rather damp and disappointing Pool Market, I was confronted by a nifty little gadget that I just knew I'd seen before. A three armed little tool with tap, reamer and turnscrew, one on the end of each arm, trefoil style, and a corresponding die in the middle. 26tpi, 3/8", "British Made" and a name that looked to me like "J Hughnes". Frank, who presides over the now somewhat large tool emporium within the market walls, thought maybe something for bikes. Seemed plausible, except I wouldn't recognise anything bike-related (motor or push) if you waved it up and down in front of my nose and described it to me over a loud hailer - and yet this I knew I'd seen before. Alas, I couldn't drag the memory to the surface and I had to admit defeat, but, for the record, did mention I thought it might be in the MAC catalogue and I'd have a look.

The MAC catalogue is a huge volume produced by The Metal Agencies Co. Ltd of Bristol. If you're familiar with the Buck & Hickman catalogues, it's kinda like that but with added bathroom fittings, paint, tiles, and generally everything you'd need for property maintenance. And then some. Fascinating tomes, and thanks to an incredibly generous forum member, I have four of them; here's the latest one from September 1937. Thin, innit?

So, nearly spraining my wrist taking it down from the shelf, I turned to the section devoted to taps and dies. Turning to page 1307, I admit I allowed a rather smug smile to steal across my face, for lo! It seems the effects of the aluminium pans aren't entirely fatal yet, and my memory of where I'd seen the mystery tool was not at fault:

Arguably this is Bad News for Frank, because somehow I don't imagine demand for Gasfitter's Combination Burner Taps is terribly high these days. But you never know. It makes me think though; a combination of die and taper, second and plug taps all in one tool would be pretty cool, wouldn't it? Probably practical reasons why not, I dare say, but still cool.

Anyway, it turned out they were in Buck & Hickman too; just not as clear an engraving, so I'd overlooked them. Which goes to show the importance of pretty pictures when grabbing the attention of such tool butterflies as myself...

By chance I also met the Tall Scotsman in the finely falling rain, and we caught up a little. Just as soon as he sends me the details, I will plug his new emporium in Hayle. Indeed, if I can convince the transport manager, I think a road trip and site report might be nice, eh? Pig's might fly, but I can but try. Anyway, courtesy of another passing tool addict, he ended up describing another sort-of mystery tool to me. Yeah, it was one of those days.

Viz: An adze, but with a straight blade, the head at at an acute angle to the round eye, a hammer poll, and a keyhole slot such as on an old Stanley lever cap in the centre of the blade. Again, this rang bells. Someone had said they used them in their workplace making rustic style rail fences - the posts coming already with sockets for the rails, but the end of the rails themselves needing shaping to fit. We don't get a lot of those round here, instead favouring enormous lumps of granite hidden in hedges just waiting to remove vehicular paintwork, so our lack of knowledge of such a fencing tool wouldn't be surprising. However, the TS had yet to check Salaman, which it turns out was A Bit Silly, because there - if I'm not mistaken - it is on page 30. Viz: A Turkish Adze.

Salaman sez: "A straight blade with flat chequered poll and round eye. Usually has a key-hole shaped slot for pulling nails. Still used in the East as a general purpose tool."

So there we have it, and have also clearly demonstrated that I really didn't appear on the planet already knowing this stuff. With my works of reference I'm a genius - and you could be too. However, without them, I do have a nifty line in expressions of vaguely knowledgable puzzlement and that, my friends, takes talent... ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almost famous

As The Bard almost said; some are great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some watch greatness wander off owing to their own ineptitude.

Now I'm quite at home with my own ineptitude. We're old friends and see each other on pretty much a daily basis. But there's one monumentally stupid thing I did that still manages to kick me in the wotsits even nine years later. Viz: I deleted some photographs. Of a project. I still have photographs of the project, mind you, but they're of a size to be dial-up connection-friendly for a forum (which is all I needed them for at the time). Which is no good for publication.

D'you see where I'm going with this?

I've only ever made one project that a magazine editor ever asked would I write up as an article, and it was this one. I've only ever been asked if I can provide a photograph for a book, and it was that project. It's like some sort of curse. Ever since, I've kept the originals of every photograph I've ever taken - but no-one wants those. Just this one accursed project.

Yes, The Music Stand of Myth and Legend. When I started calling it that, I never expected to haunt me quite so much...

Which is a long way round to say that Popular Woodworking's current plugging of the new edition of Thomas Moser's "How to Build Shaker Furniture", from which this project came, is paining me somewhat. Because it turned out that I wasn't the only to build this project and not have a colour picture worthy of publication. Nope. Mr Moser didn't either. Did I have one to include in the new edition?

No. Obviously not.

Could I get one?

Well no, actually. Owing to Nephew Numero Uno being in London, while the most cursed project in the world is still in Devon.

Aaaargh! Just for a brief moment I trembled on the brink of publication. In a book on Shaker furniture, by one of THE Shaker furniture guys. *wail* *sob* (and so forth) But 'twas not to be. Hey, I'm not bitter. Bitterly disappointed maybe, yeah, but not bitter. Being asked at all pretty much made my week at the time.

So side-stepping greatness as ever (I'll put it down to modesty if ever you should bring this up again), I would like to say that, even based on the original edition, there are some very nice projects in this book and if you're into the Shaker style at all, then well worth a look. Alas, no affiliation...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sew it goes

Is it not one of life's little ironies that as soon as the subject of making your own canvas tool rolls comes around, the members of the Old Tools List (dedicated solely to the discussion of hand tools) all chime in with advice on one particular theme.

Viz: What you need is such-and-such a sewing machine.

Never fails to crack me up. Me, I'm as old school as you can get and use a needle and thread. It ain't pretty, but it is cheap...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Hand Tools

July |joŏˈlī|
noun1. the seventh month of the year, in the northern hemisphere usually considered the second month of summer2. the month in which Blogging Does Not Happen
Mind you, August isn't looking too hot, blog-wise either, is it, reader? Sorry about dat. But hey, you know me, if I was actually in the workshop I wouldn't be able to resist telling you all about it, so rest assured you're not missing anything.

But I have not been idle, although twiddling my thumbs has been a feature. For some reason, after a lifetime of indulging in the dreadful habit, I randomly stopped biting my nails a month or so ago. As a result, I now have these potentially lethal sharp edges appearing that, I can tell you, feel really weird when you haven't had them before.

(Yes, I did feel compelled to go "Grrrr" when I posed for this, why do you ask?)

So now I'm faced with alien questions like "What grit is an emery board anyway?" "When is David Charlesworth's seminal work on the care of fingernails in the w'shop coming out?" And most importantly of all, "What bevel angle should I sharpen them to? And will the ruler trick be necessary...?"

All very worrying, but hey, you can't get much more hand tool than this, can you...? ;)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shiny Tools

The perennial "Shiny tools don't make the craftsman" argument is bubbling along on one of the fora again. I confess it maketh me to yawn mightily. To my mind, making it a point of pride to use the crappiest-looking tool for the job is just as crazy as buying a fancy one and thinking that's the solution to woodworking genius. Oddly it only seems to be an issue in the wunnerful world of hand tools, which also makes no sense to me. Now if folks got their undergarments in a twist over someone spending £600 on a power tool that will last, what? 20 years, if the gods smile benignly upon you. Well, I could see the point of sucking the collective teeth. A bit. But £250 on a plane that'll last you the rest of your life and probably all of someone else's? Or even lots of someone elses? It's cheap, man. Cheap.

Why yes, I have used that argument in justifying a tool purchase before now. How did you guess?

But anyway, to those folks who want to be smug about using their rusty Stanley Bailey they fished out of a pond in 1973, I say - You flash so-and-so. How about this fully operation piece of tool goodness, then?

Somewhere among the worm holes is a working tool. See?

You can hear the intake of breath from the Health and Safety-concious from here... This, my friends, is apparently how you go about removing the bark from your house in the mountains of Romania. Apparently hearing the munching of the little critters eating their way through the walls of your abode in the dead of night is not conducive to a peaceful mind, so the bark has to go.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Set Text

Not sure how it happened, but I currently have three Eclipse #77 saw sets in my possession. Now I know I've definitely sold two, maybe even three, over the years, but they just keep coming. I feel a bit like Mickey Mouse when faced with the remorseless tide of bucket-carrying brooms.

At one point it looked like the Eclipse was going to become Saw Set Flavour of the Month, like the Stanley 42x and the Taintor before it, but alas, no, the Stanley remains the Chosen One. Which is silly from where I'm sitting, 'cos here in Merrie Olde Englande you can throw stones all over the place but not hit a Stanley, whereas you can actually go to pick up a stone and come away with an Eclipse 77 in your hand instead. Hey you can even get the modern Somax version of the Eclipse more easily.

So I thought I'd better try and decide if I wanted to keep my user 77, or change to one of the others - and was struck by the subtle differences between the three. So I thought I'd share, because it can prove handy to know that not all 77s are created equal.

Of course it's the business end that matters - and if you've looked into these sets at all, you'll have discovered that the hammer/plunger/call it what you will can vary in width. Consensus is that it all depends on the age of manufacture, and certainly I can't recall ever seeing anything that suggested that the 77 was marketed with any emphasis on availability of different hammer widths. The anvil varies too - the different style of markings the most obvious indicator.

Honestly, I'm torn on which of the two on the left is the older. My first thought was the red painted one (my current user) on the far left, but then you turn it over and... the U-shaped top is much narrower on the middle one, and my user one looks more like the wider-hammered on on the right. And I'm pretty darn convinced the wider hammer and those extra ribs in the casting are found on later models. So who knows? Well maybe you do, in which case, the comments box is open. I'll provide tea and biscuits.

And after all that, what to do? Well while researching a bit for this blog post, I re-remembered that careful, considering saw setters argue that you should (ideally) have a saw set tuned up for each size and set of tooth - or at the least, to cover groups of teeth. Anvils should be ground differently for less set angle, probably a wider hammer is desirable for larger teeth, and all that kind of thing. In fact much discussion on the matter over here, including more on the Eclipse. And yes, most of that goes over my head at about 50,000 ft and honestly, if the saw cuts, I'm inclined to think "Hooray!" and leave it at that, but fwiw.

On the other hand, if I wasn't a terminally slap-dash saw setter, and looked at a certain way, it turns out I don't actually have enough Eclipse 77s. Who knew?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Dog's Wotsits

Yes, I thought many of the readership was too well-versed not to recognise the dog's wotsits when they saw them - the rush to identify them was swift and sure. Joiner's or Pinch Dogs it is.

These came in the Patternmaker's Mother Lode, which makes a lot of sense, as clamping up awkward shapes such as wooden patterns is something they're apparently rather good at. And just as soon as I need to do that, I'll be ready and waiting. As Brian pointed out in the comments, Lee Valley still sells them, and their blurb explains their use as well as anything if you're not familiar with this particular breed of canine.

Anyway, it's a blessing to the tool accumulator when something is classed as a clamp. Why? Because we all know you can never have enough of those... ;)

Thursday, June 02, 2011


As we haven't had a Woodworker's Wotsit for a while, I offer up this tobacco tin of potential - and currently rusty - puzzlement.

Not that I think it'll puzzle some people for any time at all, so don't be surprised if your comment doesn't appear straight away - it'll probably mean you're correct... Bonus points if you've ever had cause to use some. I haven't - yet.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Not exactly cutting edge news, this, but as the reader is probably aware, Chris "Mr Workbench" Schwarz has announced he's giving up the editor's chair at Popular Woodworking Magazine. It's take me over 24 hrs to go through all the stages of reaction to this.

1. Denial.
Noooooooo! Such an influential mover and shaker for the wunnerful world of hand tools, wandering off into the wilderness instead of being able to sucker in all those Normites from the authority of the editor's chair? Aaargh! *sob*

2. Resignation.
Okay, so there's nothing to do - but I won't be taking out that sub I was thinking about. Not yet.

3. Happy Memories.
Ah, Woodworking Magazine.

4. Positive Light.
Reduction in Roubo-ness? Okay, more seriously, things can get stale, and better to go before they do.

5. Hopefulness.
If PWW can keep up the same quality of hand tool stuff then whoopee. It's one thing to do this when there's chronic evangelist in charge, but if they can do it without one, then that's even better and suggests it's really here to stay.

6. Silver Lining.
Less Roubo... Oh, and there'll still be articles, blogs, and all the interesting stuff from Lost Art Press.

6b. Cloud.
If there are still articles, blogs, etc, then the Schwarz Effect on tool desirability will probably still be operative.


(Good luck, Chris. And thank you for the show so far.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

On the Razor's Edge

Or A Close Shave.

I have a feeling I skipped the shaves, so as I'm not actually moving in a forward direction at present, let us instead back-pedal a tad. Now in general it seems to be considered pretty much par for the course to have a, um, wide range of spokeshaves and associated tools from which to choose. Or maybe that's just the company I keep... But it's not just a case of rampant acquisition and a total inability to say "no". Au contraire; like planes, different shaves lend themselves to different jobs.

Well this lot do, at any rate. Very low on duplication here, no? I mean the rounder shouldn't even really be in there at all. Okay, so two adjustable mouth shaves may be pushing it, but one has gull winged handles and the other straight. See? Quite different. Oddly enough I probably come closest to duplication in the esoteric world of travishers - even though only one of them actually is a travisher. But the genuine article will move quite a bit of material in a hurry, while the amputated Stanley #51 is strictly detail work only. Again, perfectly justified to have both. And anyway, I feel I should keep the Stanley as visible reproach for what happens When Tool Users Attack. And tools you make yourself, such as the scrapers, don't count at all - everyone knows that. That's why making your own tools is such a doubly Good Thing.

On which reasoning, this otherwise slightly more embarrassing collection - um, selection - isn't actually so bad, 'cos two of them simply don't count. If I'd taken this portrait with them all sole up, even fewer would count. The tool gods, in their fickle way, have elected to present me with two or three shaves with irons in a shocking state, but sound bodies - and conversely, two or three sound irons in bodies who's mouths are worn to the nubbin. Naturally irons and bodies are not interchangeable... At some point I intend to look into just how tricky it is the re-sole an old spokeshave, but it's already been around six years and counting since I first thought that, so don't hold your breath.

The surprise package of them all is the little Chinese Mujingfang jobbie at the top of the pic. Most obvious difference from other wooden shaves is, of course, that the iron is of the bevel down, bench plane variety set up - like most metal shaves. It's just wedged in, like their planes, and there's a brass sole to reduce wear. But honestly, it works like a champ. Plus it's very cute, which, unfortunately, seems to go a long way with me these days. Getting girly in me old age, so I am.

So anyway, after all that, how many shaves made it to the "to go" pile? I hear you ask. Um... two.

Well, actually maybe only one...

Monday, May 16, 2011

My First Plane

Deary me; I thought I'd left the reader in the lurch for a week tops, and was feeling guilty about that. but it's nearer a fortnight. My apologies, but I've been suffering from a severe bout of JODTAA (Just One D*** Thing After Another).

Alas, I'm in no position to make it up with tales of woodworking daring-do, or even particularly exciting tool waffling. At present I'm - slowly, oh, so slowly - going through this lot of miscellanea:

An eclectic bunch, no? Including the uncomfortable discovery that I seem to be a saw set collector (How did that happen?) and wondering how any one w'shop can end up with seven - seven - glass cutters, and no two exactly the same. But on the other hand it was nice to see an old, old friend again:

Yes, it's a Surform. Pre-Stanley what's more. Excited, aren't you? I can tell. This was the beastie that acted as my "plane" in my formative years, destroying bits of scrap to make even smaller bits of scrap in my dad's shed. Yup, nothing's changed much in my woodworking aims... The Surform suffers from a touch of the red-headed stepchild amongst most woodworkers, but they're a genius invention really. And make a great "plane" for a kid, because it's light and just all round pretty forgiving of mistakes. F'rinstance it takes real determination to hurt yourself badly with one; worse case I ever had was a graze effect that's not dissimilar to that which graces 99% of all knees under the age of 10 most of the time anyway. Now ideally I'd have liked to be rolling curly shavings off air-dried walnut with my dad's trusty #4 as I made my first breakfront by the age of eleven, but as I was alone, unsupervised, and using bits of old pine with nails in, I think the Surform was probably the ideal tool.

A few weeks ago at the car boot sale I found one of these but with wooden handles, which was, I thought, kinda cool. I was actually tempted to purchase it, but came to my senses. No other Surform will ever really replace your first "plane".