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".

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Anarchy in the UK

As publication of The Schwarz's "Anarchist's Tool Chest" approacheth, inevitably my thoughts turned to an earlier self-styled woodworking anarchist, chairmaker John Brown. He wrote a series of articles in his column in Good Woodworking magazine, choosing a kit of readily available hand tools and then using them to build saw horses, a bench, tool storage and so forth, to demonstrate his philosophy of shunning power tools in favour of hand tools was a practical choice for a modern woodworker. In short, he was pretty much ahead of the game.

As we've already covered Charles Hayward's recommended beginner's tool kit, thought the reader might be interested on JB's selection, first printed in the autumn of 1997 and based largely on what was available from the Axminster catalogue of the time. I'd include the prices, but it'd only depress us all...


John Brown's Anarchist Woodworker Tool Kit - Autumn 1997

26in Rip Saw
26in Crosscut
22in Panel saw
8in Gents saw
Coping saw
12in Turning saw
Junior hack saw
8in regular taper saw file
6in slim taper saw file

20oz Claw
12oz Crosspein

Jointer No 7
Jack No5
Block 60 1/2
Rebate 778
Router 71

1 1/4in paring
1/2in paring
1in register
1/2in register
1/4in bevel edge

Boring Holes
10in Brace
Hand drill
1in Jennings bit
3/4in Jennings bit
5/8in Jennings bit
1/2in Jennings bit
3/8in Jennings bit
Bit roll - 9 pocket
1 1/4in centre pattern bit
13 piece twist drills, IMP

Measuring and Marking
36in Rabone Blind Man's Rule
5m Tape
12in Try Square
10 1/2in Bevel
Mortise Gauge
Cutting Gauge
Knife (Sloyd)
2in Bradawl - square blade
Stanley Knife 199

8in Screwdriver
4in Screwdriver
6in Pliers
10in Pincers
12in Wood rasp
Adjustable mouth spokeshave
Cabinet Scraper
O'Donnell Tool Rest
Fine Bench Stone - 8in x 2in Norton India

Holding and Cramping
Vice - Record 10 1/2in plain screw
Vice - Mechanic's - Record 4in
G Cramps
Sash Cramps - Paramo box section 2 x 36in
Sash Cramps - Paramo box section 2 x 72in

Add to this list such items as pencils, chalk, masking tape, rags, brushes, Danish oil, paint etc. Also, a 36in (or better, a 48in) metal level, useful as a straight edge.


The plan was to write a book, I believe, but it never came to fruition, which I always thought was a terrible shame. As it turns out, I needn't have worried; wait long enough and another anarchist will come along, just like buses. ;)