Wednesday, February 29, 2012


As I spent 15 minutes drilling small holes* through small bits of wood†, in order to facilitate the parrots turning them into even smaller bits of wood, I realised why it is that a drill press would be a tailed tool I would very much miss having access to.

Although I suppose I could find somewhere to put the hand-cranked one, if truly pressed. Don't take that vice away from me though - insanely useful device. (See what I did there? Can't do that with 'Murrican spelling. Arguably, why would you want to?)

It was also of minor comfort that I do occasionally get some use out of a tiny proportion of the tools in the w'shop these days. Although any comfort is somewhat offset by the reflection that this must make them the most expensive parrots toys in psittacine history...

*4mm lip'n'spur

†They may look like coloured lolly sticks to you but they're actually highly-prized exotic timbers ripped to size and hand-planed to close tolera- Okay, yes. They're coloured lolly sticks. It was only with effort that I confined myself just to those and didn't also buy the bag of self-adhesive goggly eyes and start looking speculatively at the planes.

Oh, come on. Planes with goggly eyes? What's not to like? Don't tell me you wouldn't be tempted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Well-polished Chipboard

At the beginning of the month, I mentioned how I've always struggled to get a grip on mouldings; what's called what, what's appropriate where, etc etc. Well, unhappily, I have similar difficulties with furniture styles. I'm better than I was - walnut came before mahogany, and so forth - but the detail eludes me, and I certainly fail mightily at placing the furniture style in the context of history. It's always been like that; I was useless at music theory too, but I could hold a tune just about okay.

So at the moment I am applying myself to reading Edward Lucie-Smith's Furniture: A Concise History in yet another bid to remedy that. I'm pretty sure I ought to have a copy of Charles Hayward's English Period Furniture and be reading that, but somehow or other I don't have it and I do have this one. Because my mother, bless her, saw it in a charity shop and bought it for me. So naturally I'm reading it; you should always exhibit suitable enthusiasm to encourage family and friends to be inclined to buy any and all s/h woodworking books they might see. You never know what they might find.

Anyway, he's a pretty good read (should be; he's written enough), and does put the furniture into a nice social history context, which works for my poor brain cell. He seems to be a bit of a Makepeace fan, but I'll try not to hold that against him; it was written in the 70s, after all. Alas, I'm getting a bit bogged down in the 17thC at the moment (as is so often the case) - can't see the furniture for the ornamentation, which I loathe - but there is more than enough to keep one interested en route.

For instance, I'd never before heard of a doll's house in Nuremberg, Germany, dating to 1639, but there's a rather dark black and white plate of same, and my interest was piqued. Luckily Google supplies, and it seems it's better known as the Stromer House, and it's absolutely fab. I love it. All it needs is a workshop attached, and I'd live in it. Here are some photos of it halfway down the page - and further miniature marvels as a bonus.

But I must return to my education; a marquetry table from 1690 is now demanding my attention. Too bad the picture is such that it looks less like delicate marquetry, and more an illusion of, um, well chipboard. Well-polished chipboard, mind you...

Oh look, a post title :^)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Pun Handling

Would you all groan very much if I said I thought I was starting to get a handle on the spring cleaning situation...?

Yes, I rather thought you would.

Friday, February 03, 2012


Last week there was an auction on da 'Bay for a tool chest. It was down here in Cornwall, pick up only. Obvious water damage and the sparse description spoke of rusty tools but showed nary a one. One of those things where you tell yourself it's nothing but spanners so orange with rust that they look like they've had an unfortunate accident in a spray tanning booth.

But in your heart, you wishfully dream of Stanley #1s and ebony bridle ploughs.

Now I don't do Ebay. At all. I dare not, because I will be bankrupt within a week. Tops. So I was happily ignorant of this tool chest, potentially full of promise but in all likelihood actually full of rust. But I have thoughtful readers out there, ever ready to apply a heap of grease to the soles of my feet and give me a hearty shove further down The Slope. They even smile and wave as they do it, the considerate sw-... people.

So not one, but two emails arrived in my inbox saying "Hey, Alf, have you seen this?" and helpfully pointing this tool chest out. In fairness there wasn't long to withstand before the listing ended, but by gum, what a test for me and my notoriously sparse willpower. I mean, c'mon, guys; would you sit a recovering alcoholic down in front of a bottle of whisky? And this wasn't even a good single malt, but some home-brewed potcheen that'd likely cause blindness. Sheesh. ;)

Anyway, by now you're already shaking your head and saying "I know where this goes. You gave in, didn't you, Alf? Come on then, where is it?" Well ya boo sucks. I resisted to the bitter end. Okay, so I may have looked when the auction ended, just in case it hadn't sold and maybe consider contacting the seller and asking "What about it?"

But it sold.

So that's all right then. Don't mind at all. Best result. Dying of curiosity, wondering what was in it? Me? Don't be silly.

I'm fine.

So when I open the local paper this week, automatically perusing the classified ads, it was with some despair that I realised even without the helpful emails (Which really I love to get, guys. Honest), I'm still perfectly capable of torturing myself.

It's fine. I'm absolutely fine. If there was anything worth having, it will have already sold. Wooden planes? Who needs 'em? The chances of there being anything by Madox or Gabriel or... No. It's fine.

Odds are heavily against a bridle plough too.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Talking of handwriting, the other day my folks and I spent a happy lunchtime dissecting Albrecht Dürer's engraving of Erasmus, via the medium of a thank you card that someone had sent in the post.

As you do.

Naturally my horticulture-obsessed female parent focused on the lily of the valley in the jug. Classically educated as he was, my dad went for the Greek and Latin. Which left me either to really appreciate the hat or the furniture.

So the hat... yeah, let's take a moment there. Interesting, in a hat-made-from-a-sweet-pepper sort of look. I've seen worse on Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot. And, um... That's all I got.

Yes, okay, millinery is not my forte; I went for the furniture. At this point, and not for the first time, I truly appreciate just how much I don't know about mouldings. Or moldings. Either of them. It's shameful. Somehow I've yet to find the book or article that truly makes it click for me, so I'm reduced to trying to remember the basics by rote. And failing. I think that's an ogee on the underside of the desk/table edge. Or is it a cyma reversa?And what's the difference anyway? Is there a difference? Either way, I like it, and how it's echoed in the cut out for the feet of the writing slope. I mean it may date from 1526, but I could live with that furniture. I like its clean lines.

Mind you, I could live with that engraving too. Click on the pic for a big ol' zoom in to fully appreciate the detail. You can practically run your hands over the wood, and have you spotted them? The end grain of the dovetail pins? Steep angle, no? Somebody better at that sort of thing might want to guesstimate the slope. But quite a narrow pin apex, verging on London style. I shall call it Rotterdam style - until someone tells me not to. So dovetailed top rails to a table? Or is it actually a chest? Or what? I know not (obviously), but I had a disproportionate amount of fun speculating about it.

So my tip o' the day: For the ideal thank you card, when faced with a choice of fluffy kittens frolicking amongst spring flowers or a 16thC engraving that apparently the sitter really didn't like terribly much, consider the recipient's available time to appreciate the card. Kittens - 2 minutes, tops. Erasmus - a comfortable 25 minutes. And a blog entry.