Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Patriotic Case Study (and giveaway!)

Well I don't know about any Brits out there reading this, but I'm currently feeling like I'm in imminent danger of drowning under a sea of Union flags. What with HM Queen's Jubilee this weekend (God bless her), the upcoming Olympics later this summer (God help us), and even the European football championships (God will be asked, but honestly, we haven't a prayer), you can't get away from the patriotic fervour. So if you can't beat 'em...

The observant will have noticed that a) Lee Valley Veritas have started supplying their plane blades in nifty clamshell cases, and b) You can buy said handy cases separately. See? Veritas Plane Blade Cases. A useful accessory that had been long-promised, and finally realised - via (and this is a the patriotic bit) UK manufacturing! Yes, I know - I wasn't sure there was any left either, but there ya go.

So because I've been very good, eaten all my greens, and clean living apparently really does pay (could have sworn that was a fib), I have an example or two here chez Alf. Behold:

They hang:

They stack:

They hold blades:

And, well, that's where you want to be careful. If, like me, you see a device designed for item X and immediately wonder if it'll hold item Y, be careful. Turns out not all irons for Bailey style planes are the same. The Hock I knew wouldn't fit, owing to its distinctive square top, but when the *cough*Lie-Nielsen*cough* turned out to be too long, and the Quangsheng only just made it, I thought I'd do the assembled and visiting multitude a favour. Viz: Nick the pic off LV's website and apply a few crude but hopefully helpful measurements.

Turns out when LV say 8" long, they mean from the very tip of the hang hole, so watch it if you're wandering away from Veritas irons and the One True Canadian Path, eh?

But they're good. I like them very much - they clip shut nice and positively, look after your precious sharp edges, and I shall be investing in some more in due course for my other bevel-up irons, once the coffers have refilled (but that's another story).

However, if you know me at all, it's that any spare Bailey pattern irons tend to be stored in, well, "spare" Bailey pattern planes. It's one way to justify them, I suppose... As a result, I asked El Presidente if he'd object to spreading the beneficence a little rather than let things lie around gathering dust, and he said Go Ahead.

So, in a Jubilee kinda way, FREE, GRATIS and for NOTHING, two lucky persons can find a UK-made bevel down blade case upon their doormat in virtually no time at all. You'll need a UK mainland address for me to send it to, but if you're Yuri in Odessa you can still enter, as long as your mate in Basildon is willing to accept the parcel and send it on. i.e. As long as I'm just sending it within the UK, that's fine. Just email me before midnight BST Friday 8th June to enter (address is on the website). I was going to come up with a question or something, but failed; so if you can come up with a relevant (and amusing) one for me I'll stick an extra entry in the hat for you instead.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Got dem bevel grindin' blues

*insert likely Blues lyrics informing you I woke up this morning (yes, I woke up this morning), ain't got no money (no, ain't got a cent) and so forth*

So, do we have any Pelmanists in the house? Because I'm going to ask the reader to perform a feat of memory and cast your mind back again. Good news though; this time it's merely a little over a year since I succumbed to the power of suggestion, the Oh Look It's Got 10% Off Effect (infinitely more dangerous than the Schwarz Effect), and plain old curiosity, and purchased one of them thar fancy blue Norton 3X grinding wheels. And now I've finally got round to fitting it on my beloved "Mole".

That, gentle reader, is an awesome combination right there. The "Mole", the ever-useful grinder tool rest by you-know-who (which would only be improved if it wasn't aluminium that clings to the grit like a mother with her new-born - but then I couldn't afford it at all, so...), and this powder blue thing. Turns out my previous Norton wheel was both harder and finer than I had thought, which did the baby blue new boy some extra favours in making me go "Wow", but even so. It does, as they claim, cut fast, and thus run very cool indeed.

As I was playing, er.. I mean as I had my nose to the grindstone, I thought I might mention a few things that occasionally come up on the matter.

First, why grind? Some folks seem to actively see it as a matter of pride that their preferred sharpening regime means they don't use a grinder. To me that's like prepping stock from the rough with nothing coarser than a jointer plane; you can do it, but it's not terribly efficient. Grinding is the jack plane of my sharpening; it's allows me to quickly get rid of material that's in the way of the finished edge I want, and starts me on the road to that edge. And as nothing of the grinding will actually end up in the finished edge, I can grind coarse, and thus fast and cool. I suspect some woodworkers get thrown a loop by all the wheels aimed at the roundy-spinny turning brigade, who, of course, often do use a grinder to get their finished edge.

A hand grinder-specific problem is that of bushings. Norton thoughtfully provide them down to 5/8" - but ye olde hand-grinder manufactures often made their shafts smaller than that. That's kinda worrying if you're new to purchasing such a grinder, but it's worth remembering the arbor isn't what's holding the wheel. Nope, it's the washers bearing on the side of the wheel (and the paper washers thereon) that are doing the work. Allow me to direct you to Mr Hand Grinder, Tom Thornton's Old Tools List post on how to work with an oversized bushing and an undersized shaft.

Having said which, it's a lot easier - if you have a lathe about your person - to turn up a bushing smaller still, to fit. Which I did some years ago, and which is just as good now as when I made it. Arguably that isn't saying much, but it does the job.

The other hand-cranked grinder worry is Pat Head Rub Stomach Syndrome, and the concern that one won't be able to do it. I certainly wondered. The Veritas rest, or similar designs that have a blade holder, do give one some confidence in that respect. Set the grinding victim up in the holder and just slide it back and forth across the wheel. It's how I started, but it is a bit limiting. You should have some slack in the slot so you can pull the edge away from the wheel, but unless you set up very carefully you can find you can't push the steel into the wheel far enough once you've already ground some off. Also I found it depressingly easy to cack-handedly drive the edge hard into the wheel as I was trying to manoeuvre the blade holder into the slot.

So I ended up losing the blade holder and going freehand. Because of the limitations of where I could set up the grinder at the time, I ended up learning all this with my left hand whilst I cranked with my right, despite being very right-handed as a normal rule. The key thing is to retain control over the tool (surprise), and there are a couple of ways I do it.

Firstly you can act like the blade holder and use the slot (if available) as your guide. The first finger is providing the down force on the tool rest - with the bonus of being able to tell if the steel is starting to heat up.  The thumb and middle finger are providing the side support, with the middle finger also acting as the "clutch". I'll explain about that in moment. Personally I don't find it the ideal set up, but it's handy for the narrower and shorter things, such as combi cutters,

My preferred grip ignores the slot and I find offers more control on the majority of chisels and plane irons. First and middle fingers go on the top to provide down force.

The thumb and third finger provide side support, with the third finger also acting as the "clutch" in this case.

And yep, I do have the top fingers that close to the edge. It's almost certainly just a psychological thing, but I feel a lot happier doing this with a hand grinder than I would a tailed grinder. In practice these things have plenty of momentum and the wheel will go round a fair bit after I stop cranking, but somehow it feels safer knowing I'm at least not going to be keeping on cranking as my fingers are ground into a bloody mush. An electric motor knows no such mercy.

So what do I mean by the "clutch" finger? That's the one that controls the forward/back movement of the edge into and out of the wheel, kinda like a clutch pedal I thought. I find the straight rear edge of the Veritas provides the ideal edge to just guide that finger along. Push the finger towards the wheel and you disengage the edge from the grind; curl it back, and you're grinding again. I reckon 90% of grinding happiness is letting the wheel do its job, so a delicate touch of steel to wheel is essential. So many people seem to favour jabbing the edge into the wheel like they're trying to use the tool as a brake, and then they're surprised that losing temper is a problem. Let the wheel cut, don't let the tool heat up beyond warm at all, and grinding is a lot less stressful process. If I have to plunge the tool into water to cool down, I consider myself a dumb klutz.

The other thing, like so much hand tool use, is to look and see what's happening. Holding the tool freehand, it's very easy to take it off the rest, have a look at progress, then return it safely. I do it a lot. In this case I was taking the grinding angle on the 1" Veritas chisel down from 25° to 20° (told you I did many evil things to them), so I had an easy reference to check that I was grinding square i.e. The existing bevel. Sometimes a square and/or judicious use of a Sharpie might be required. Either way, it really helps if you can readily spot if you're not grinding evenly - an even bevel at this stage cuts down the work needed at the honing stage, after all.

The end result came out okay. Normally I wouldn't grind quite as close to the edge as this, but as things were staying so cool, I pushed the limits a little. By the end the chisel was starting to feel warm, but the temper was in no danger at all. Nice. Looking forward to see how the wheel copes with some less easy-going steel.

Anyway, there ya go, some of my thoughts on grinding. Whether you wanted them or not. :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Veritas Bench Chisels

Coconut to Mr Chapman for correctly guessing the identity of the chisel in the last post. Surprise! Or then again...

So... I'm not going to do a review as such (despite the tag), 'cos chisels have to be just about the most subjective tool choice on the planet. It's not for nothing that manufacturers catalogues of yore were bursting at the seams with different permutations of blade and handle to try and suit all tastes. Instead, have some pictures to make up for not being able to see them in the flesh yourselves and, because I can't help myself, some personal observations thus far. Best have a link in order to get the basic technical info.

Oh, before we start, I've had absolutely nothing to do with the development of these chisels - I come to them fresh (and critical). Which is pretty much how I like it. And I've not read anyone else's opinions on them yet. With that; onwards.

Five sizes of O1 "bench" chisel. i.e. Yer chisel workhorse. You can pare with 'em, chop with 'em, you want to chisel something, these are all-rounders for the job. Supplied in reasonably robust plastic tubes, so you can store them in there if necessary, which is nice. As you can see from the 1", the LV chisel guards couldn't cope with the blade thickness and were tending to split, so alas, no chisel guards will be supplied now. But I'd already taken the picture by then, so...

Concise but informative instructions supplied. Um... not much else to say really. Oh, 'cept you'll want a nice sharp knife to run round the top if you want to get the lid off cleanly like this.

The handles are the infamous caramelised maple with a buffed wax finish, 1 3/16" diameter at the maximum. It's one of those "barely there" kinds of handle finishes, which I know some will love, and some won't. I kinda don't much. The ends stand up to mallet work very well (also comfortable to push with the heel of the hand when paring), but I've found the long grain has got a little dinged up in the normal give and take of bench life. I also found I was conscious of a sweet aroma. Now I reckon maybe I was unduly influenced to think this by the "caramelised" feature of the maple, but probably it's actually the finish. Whatever; personally it's driven me nuts. The handles have little flats, which work well in preventing the smaller sizes from rolling, but don't expect them to help much in registering the handle in your hand. I found I was conscious of them in more of an off-putting way than a helpful one - but then apparently I have some kind of reputation for handle issues... So obviously I'd be entertaining the idea of replacing them, right?

Wrong. Veritas have employed a Japanese-esque tang 'n' socket ferrule combo, so life's a little complicated. I asked The Elves if they thought it a practical option for the home woodworker, and got an answer that I interpret as "You'd go mad trying" (I think they've gone mad making them in the first place, to be honest) Now the Elf in question may not be familiar with all the terrible things I've done to their tools in the past, so maybe it's more doable than he thinks. Honestly, I'm tempted, 'cos I kinda fancy knocking about 3/4" off the handle length too. Past history has suggested that many of The Elves have hands like bear wrestlers, whereas I don't. Except maybe teddy bears. Small ones.

Anyway, these tangs are glued into the handles through tapered stainless steel ferrules. No actual bolster as such, just a step in the blade shape. Which as far as looks go, I'm not a huge fan of - but it's a cost thing. So some of the chisels end up with spaces between blade and ferrule, while some have glue filling up one side (presumably where it's been lying down as it sets). I got one that have evidently missed the trimming of squeeze out, so you can see what I'm whittering about more clearly.

It's an aesthetic thing, not a practical thing. After a while you do get used to it (how many times have I ended up saying that about something by Veritas?), and as an example of that kind of bolster-less solution, it's a very nicely executed version. Like I said - subjective things, chisels. Seems robust enough - but obviously that's subject to time and use. Come back in 20 years ;)

Continuing down them, we come to the business end. And they are flat. Flat. Heck, let me repeat that:

They are FLAT.

It's an entirely new experience for me to have a chisel face that I can only make less flat by doing anything to it. Marvellous. Of course, if you're not a devotee of the flat face/back, then you're probably getting ready to scoff and mutter. Save it. Move along. If you've spent any time at all labouring over flattening a chisel, you'll love these. I'm already having wonderful visions of long thin paring chisels with backs prepped like these by LV's Elves from Lapland. I only hope The Elves have the same vision and will realise it. Pretty please. With a hockey puck on top?

Other types of chisels are planned, but while I asked about smaller and larger sizes of these ones, the response was not conclusive. I suspect I might be all out of luck in hoping for a 3/16" (which is a size I happen to find terribly handy, and which L-N are also denying me in O1, the rotters). Even a 1/8" may be a no go. I don't honestly know what the plans are, but if you're the sort who likes their chisels in matching sets, that may be something to bear in mind.

Talking of L-N, about time we did a little comparing and contrasting. Let us bend our minds to the sides or "lands" of these chisels. Or rather where they'd be if they had any. The things are knife edges. Seriously, the very first thing you'll want to do is stone off those sides some, or they will make you bleed. Given how much time I seem to spend holding the blade of a chisel, I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan of knife edges on the sides of same - except for select "special purpose" chisels. Can't honestly see the need for them on an all-rounder chisel such as this. Perhaps it's a Japanese saw-user thing, I dunno. Adds a level of necessary care to chopping too, as you're as like to cut sideways as you are forwards if you're not careful. Have a look; top is the Veritas, middle is the L-N (also in O1) and bottom is a classic boxwood handled Marples c.1960s.

I should have put them the other way round, then I could have said "Going, going, gone" about those lands. Ah well. But you can see how chunky the Veritas is - and, it seems, the L-N. Honestly, I thought the Veritas was a heftier blade by far, but calipers proved there's nothing in it. It's all in the appearance of the bevels, I suppose. Calipers also showed the Veritas were either dead on, or fractionally (like gnat's whisker measurement) under the given width.

Again, Veritas top, then L-N, and finally Marples (and yes, I was slightly horrified at the Marples' shape too - but it works, which is the important thing). The Veritas has beveled sides at 30°; the L-Ns at 40°. 10° doesn't sound much, but the Veritas looks significantly less, well... bevelled.

Practically speaking, I haven't found the bevel angle too steep for anything yet. Doubt I will, but I suppose someone'll find something to do that does and go "Ah hah!". 'Cos us woodworkers are annoying and do that kind of thing to tool makers for kicks and giggles.

Who? Me? Good heavens, as if I would...

As far as sharpening and such goes, these things take a wicked edge all right. Seem to hold it pretty well too; no sudden or catastrophic edge failure, just well-behaved blunting of the edge as you'd expect - and I've asked them to do some pretty mean and evil things. Again, The Elves have opted for including the craziness that is an additional 2° "micro bevel", which I really wish they wouldn't, but it's eliminated easily enough.

Finally, a final comparison of overall sizes with Some Chisels You May Already Know. Top is a 3/4" Marples; then the 3/4" Veritas; 3/4" Lie-Nielsen; bottom a 1" Ashley Iles Roundback Dovetail (the only Ashley Iles type I have available).

Most interesting observation to me was the overall metal section of the Veritas and the L-N are the same length - just the handle's about 3/4" shorter on the L-N. Which happened to be about how much shorter I fancied the Veritas. Hmm, methinks there may be a bit of craving familiarity happening there.

I've given them a bit of work, although not as much as I'd have liked. It's kinda on-going. And they work just fine; nicely balanced, reasonably comfortable, easy to hone. I'm finding the combination of hefty build with the "delicate precision" vibe of the fine lands and supremely flat back slightly disconcerting, if I'm honest. However, I imagine that's actually going to be much of the appeal to many prospective purchasers - they'll do a bit of everything. They're not what I expected when El Presidente said they were going to introduce them, but they have brought Good Things to consider for prospective chisel purchasers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Further joinery

So, it seems this joint isn't as straight-forward as I'd hoped. Figures. I had a bit of a further look through (some) of the books, and the rarely mentioned Wood Joiner's Handbook by Sam Allen, which has delivered the goods before, has at least mentioned this one - calling it a Housed Carcass Pinning. He sez cut the tenons first  - which I'd have assumed was entirely arse backwards - then the housing, then the mortises. Which is 100% more information than many another book has got. It's a handy tome that one, and insanely cheap on the secondhand market - just ignore the endless use of unguarded tablesaurs and you're golden.

Anyway, nothing further to add at the moment - w'shop time is non-existant just now, however much I'd like to be trying fifteen different ways to cut that joint. And no, I really wouldn't. What I'd really like is all these woodworking geniuses (genii?) to branch out a little, stop telling me how to dovetail (I know that - I may not always get it right, but that's through my fault, not a lack of available instruction) and devote a little more DVD space on some hand-cut joinery that hasn't got a 1:8 slope involved. However, no blog post is truly complete without a picture, so let me not deny you.

Just as soon as my interweb connection hauls itself back out of the dark ages, I'll try and get a few other pics on here. Of some chisels. Various. Y'know, just in case anyone wanted to see the differences between, say, one make of chisel and another. Maybe a few comments on one make of chisel. Stuff like that.

But then again, you're probably not really interested.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Finally, after several years of prevaricating about the bush, I've relented and joined TATHS. Suspect I'm not the only one who was lured in by the second edition of The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, which has overnight no doubt relegated my first edition from "Retirement Fund" to "Bargain Bin". Not that I was ever going to sell it, but y'know, if pressed... Anyway, the newsletter entertained me, and rather than feeling out of my depth I was comfortably able to boggle that someone didn't know what GTL stood for. So that's all right. 

However, I have yet to crack the spine on Ben Seaton, 'cos I was already immersed in The Essential Woodworker. I've finally come to the realisation that I might as well buy the Lost Art Press publications as they become available, because I'll only succumb in the long run. Would that Ben were bound so nicely. Mind you, it's only served to remind me how not easy I find Robert Wearing's writings to absorb. Not difficult, just... it doesn't flow. I re-read a lot in order to make sense of it, and then get exasperated by the relevant diagram being three pages away.

One of my other irritations is the assumptions. It tells you how to plane up a piece of wood square, then doesn't tell you a word about shooting except to frequently mention doing it. It tells you what order to employ in the making of a frame and panel door (Mortise first, then groove - I always get that wrong, because I can't see why that should be. Anyone?) but not a word of advice on the joint below:

The tenon and housing combination recommended for the beginner as best for fixed shelves. Which yeah, I can see. Indeed, I've always rather liked the look and should like to incorporate it in the old arsenal. But does it give any guidance at all on what order I should cut the thing? Does it hell. I turned to Charlie Hayward (as one does) and he doesn't even acknowledge this joint's existence. Thinking about it, I can't recall anyone giving it much notice at all. Perhaps I'm just as dumb as I look and everyone else is rolling their eyes and just getting on with it, devoting the saving in worry to wondering about their zero radius intersections instead.

So I open it to the floor (with fingers crossed that there's still someone out there) - mortise first, then housing? Or t'other way about? I know which way I think, but see observation above concerning mortises and grooves and my failure to do it properly. Every. Damn. Time.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Reversal of Fortune

In that arse-about-face way that I so often seem to find myself in, having had the rusting chisel discovery earlier last month, last week I had the leaking roof precursor. Except it came afterwards. If you see what I mean.

Folks, there is no sadder sight that a Veritas Small Router sitting in a small puddle of water. You may have heard the screams of "Nooooooooo!" from there. (Yeah, that's what's it was. Not some natural phenomenon such as someone pulling the toenails from a bull elephant.)

Oddly enough it was the only thing in the line of fire (apart from a few splashes on a Stanley #71 1/2 and the head of my panel gauge) and there wasn't even enough to seep through the join in the tool tray. Which was nice, 'cos let me tell you, I pulled those boards out in the full expectation of finding some horrific Lido type affair in the original tool well below. There was enough to cause some rust though, but a word of love and affection for those Garryflex abrasive thingies, which sorted it out in no time. Well worth having the fine grade at hand even if you're not naturally a devotee of ferrous oxide bargains. If it wasn't for the one single line staining the sole where it sat on the join of those tool tray boards, you'd never know. So Awww Buggerit, but mainly Phew.

Whilst on the subject of the Veritas Small Router Plane, I have to make a confession. Every time (and when I say every time, it's not like it runs into dozens of occasions. Three or four, tops) But every time I read on a forum or some such that people find the cutter slips or twists in the clamp, I feel the hot flush of shame that I utterly failed to notice this at the Beta stage. Honestly, I feel terrible. That's exactly the sort of thing The Elves have every expectation of even your dim-witted correspondent picking up on, and I failed utterly. I liked it almost unreservedly ('cept I found my digits are sufficiently not Canadian - i.e. Small - to risk squashing between the jaws of the bullnose area when loosening the cutter clamp - see above). But aside from that, not a problem. So when I had cause to use same again the other day, I bethought myself "Dammit, I must face this failure square in the face. Or sole." and thus did not baby that cutter and clamp at all. Indeed I positively encouraged it to slip.

It still didn't.

So yeah, I feel slightly less guilt, and can only apologise that I seem to have a perfectly working example. Some coarse abrasive applied to the shaft of the cutter is apparently the remedy. And yes, the cutter will fit in a Stanley #271 (there's always at least one person who wants to know that).

If you're waiting water-related w'shop mishap numero tres (as I was, things being what they are in coming in threes), I offer up the observation that it turns out the dye in tool rolls can be markedly fugitive. Thus what was once a classic off-white carpenter's apron chez Alf, is now a delicate shade of eau de nil. Sigh.