Thursday, February 28, 2013

Transylvanian saw poised to taste blood

Cutting up firewood in a Carpathian Mountains stylee:

Materials meeting the saw blade appear to be possibly beech, birch, and very probably white Romanian male...

(Apparently they made it through to the end all in one piece. This time.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Listing a little more

Having recovered from that heady foray into yer akshull wood butchery, chipping away at the To Do List continues on. First up, you may recall my fortuitous finding of a possible wheel to fix the Millers Falls #2 wheel brace? And the rather botched temporary installation of same.

Well it's still a trifle botched - apparently a guaranteed way to drill a hole in the centre of a circle is to actually want to drill it off-centre and it aims for the centre like a missile homing system... Anyway, it's better, and it seems to work okay. I may get picky and have another shot at it some time, but somehow I doubt it.

While still on a finicky metalwork high, I dug through the box of largely unidentifiable assorted fixings, but they may come in someday. You know the sort of motley collection of "bits and bobs"; bet most of you have one. Well one of the screws did come in someday, and it was this day. The thread isn't strictly correct - Marples helpfully used a Stanley-esque odd-ball thread - but close enough to work. Had to file the head down almost to the slot (and recut same) to get it small enough, but 'tis done.

May not look like much to you, but that spur cutter has been floating around loose in a bag for years, always in danger of being lost forever. So that's a weight off my mind. Trouble is, it now makes the Marples 100% more qualified as a candidate for another loving home, given that I have approximately 700% more rebate planes than I have the hands to use them with. But it's always, inexplicably, been a favourite of mine.

Yes, it's the oft-derided single fence rod garden variety 78-a-like, and there's a wee crack where the fence rod screws in. But it works. It doesn't care how little love it gets, it just ploughs on. Or rebates on... in that ridiculously loud and shameless red outfit.

It's funny really, which tools capture your heart. It's often not the ones you expect it to be.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wooden Square

In amongst all the tool cleaning and refurb, a strange and unaccustomed feeling swept over me. Gradually it dawned on me what it was.

I wanted to make something in wood.

I know! What the dickens? Worry not, gentle reader - I slaked the need by making... a tool.

Yeah, it's one of them wooden squares. I'm not convinced about them, but as someone who believes in trying something for myself before dismissing it, I figured what the hell. I happened to have some suitably thin pieces of ash that had spent some years acting as drawer dividers, so I reckoned it was going to be about as stable as any wood ever will be. Alas, the truly quarter sawn pieces were a little thin and a little narrow, so I had to slum it a little.

And honestly? I don't like fancy shapes at the end of the blade. Y'know why I did it? There was a partial saw kerf in the ash, and by making a wavy shape at the end of the blade I could eek out another inch or so of length. It'd be vastly amusing if that or something similar was how the practice came about in the first place.

Being well out of practice - and bridle joints giving one very few places to hide - the stock ended up a tad shorter than planned too. First up I stopped thinking and started cutting like it was a tenon. i.e. All the wrong side of the line. Abort. Recut, shoot, mark again. Second time was just, ack, horrible. I tried to rescue it it, but it was beyond hope. Abort. Recut, shoot, mark again. Third time went much better, although I thought I'd got a better fit with the blade at 90° than subsequently occurred. *shakes fist at gap* No matter. The fit was largely okay, and as a slight re-entry back into some proper woodwork, it was fun to do. 

And I dunno what's with my photography at the mo', but swear on my combi plane collection, the edge of the blade is not sloping as it appears to be in that pic. Really, if I had any sense at all, I'd have Photoshopped that away and fixed the gap at the same time, but 'tis all laid bare for you, gentle reader. In all its hideous reality. 

I must be mad. (Don't answer that)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Listing to one side

Gradually - oh, so gradually - I make small inroads into the ever-lengthening To Do List. Cast your mind back to March, um, 2011 (Zoicks!) when my fit of Spring Cleaning hit the Brace Bit Blockage.

I managed to get through all the stuff on the left, but came over all faint at the thought of cleaning up all those auger bits - and put them away again. Shame! Horror!

Well I finally mustered up the will to finish the job, hence my recent mild obsession with lead screws. And here they are; cleaned up, sharpened as necessary, and the spare-spare spares put in the One Day I Will Get Off My Behind and Sell Something box.

Technically I still have the l'hommedieu or shipwright's augers to clean, but honestly I think their best kept in their mummified state, deep in their coating of linseed oil. Until I need to build a boat.

Anyway, in amongst that lot are no fewer than five different patterns of bits (You want to see a bit without spurs? Just holler. I have, um, four types) and absolutely no complete sets. Oh well, variety is the spice of life, is it not?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Better Buns

Right, need a break from going round the twist with auger bits for a moment, so instead I revisited my not-terribly-beloved infill plane. If you recall in December, I found to my horror, that it was rusty. So in a fit of guilt I cleaned it up, and gave the iron and back iron a bit of a going over too.

It looks considerably better. It's also a lot more comfortable to use than I remembered. But really the iron is in a poor way and not conducive to setting the cap iron just so.

I went to the box o' spares and thought I had found just the thing in a tidy and nearly full length Hearnshaw Bros. 2 1/4in tapered iron and cap iron. Alas, turns out the plane takes just a hair under that, so I'd have to reduce the iron's width to get it to fit. So that may get on the To Do List.

Or maybe I'll just sell the thing and have done. It is a bit 19thC stylee for me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Leading by a nose

Partially prompted by the comments, something of a follow up to the last post. Some 19/20thC advertising blurb to ruin your confidence in what you think you know about lead screws:


  "The bits in this set are our Fig. 100 and have our standard double thread point, and are unsurpassed for accurate work in seasoned woods not extremely gummy or hard. It is the thread used by cabinet makers.

  "We also have a similar bit, our Fig. 101 with single thread point for quick boring which is especially adapted for hard or gummy woods, end grain boring, mortising doors, etc."

And from Josh Clark via the Old Tools List:

  "The 1911 Sargent catalog says that the RJ bits with the double lip, double twist, and double thread screws (the bits everyone wants these days) are "not adapted for rapid boring or in hard wood where fine lead screws tend to clog. .. fine double thread screws are intended for pattern-makers and are for use in soft wood"


  "Sargent is also quite definitive as far as the distinction between the double and single thread bits: 'It should be clearly understood that the double thread bit is intended for soft wood, the single thread for hard wood, as the latter will not clog up as readily as the former.'"

So if, like me, your initial introduction to auger bits was an all encompassing "coarse for soft woods, fine for hard woods", like me, you're probably either a) Grumbling a little about this, or b) Going "Ahhh, so it's not just me then" as personal experience is finally explained.

Going through my Irwins yesterday, they threw me another loop. Bit after bit, pretty much, was single thread - and then the numbers 6 and below all went double thread. Didn't see that coming at all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lead Astray

Occasionally I delude myself that I've got a bit of a handle on this old tool business - and then I clean up some auger bits and confusion descends like a familiar cloud.

Auger bits are not simple. Auger bits are complicated little blighters. F'rinstance, early in your auger bit orientation you've probably come across the revelation that lead screws can come in coarse, medium and fine. You may have tripped and fallen in the quagmire that is the uncertainty over whether coarse lead screws are for soft woods and fine for hard woods, or... not. But it's not even as simply confusing as that. Take the lead screws on these two Cornelius Whitehouse and Sons Jennings pattern bits. At least I thought they were Jennings pattern, although they surely don't look like it in the picture... But that's not the point. #11 on the left, #10 on the right.

The lead screws appear to be much of a muchness, no? Yes, the one on the left needs a little attention, but that's not the point either. Well it is the point, but it's not the point.

Wrap a length of cotton thread round those screw points, why don't we? Top tip of the day there, incidentally, and possibly the only useful thing you may glean from this blog entry. Having wrestled and sworn over trying to trace the spirals with a marker in the past, it dawned on me that a piece of thread wrapped round the, um, thread, did the job in a fraction of the time and inconvenience. Unless it occurs to you that the nearest piece of thread is the loose one on your shirt and you start pulling, at which point your inconvenience quotient can increase dramatically. So don't do that. Anyway:

Can you see it? The cotton goes round every spiral on the left like a kiddie on a helter-skelter; it only goes round every other one on the right. Yes, the blighter on the right is a double thread. Cunning swine. Which means...

Well that's where I get confused. More confused. It means the thread pitch is coarser than it appears. I think. But the number of threads is doubled for better grip, maybe? If so, in what exactly? Which lead screw is preferred for what type of wood? Does it matter? Do I even need to know? Most books, however ancient, and the few catalogues I have are all oddly silent on lead screws and the differences in same, so maybe it's no big deal. But I can't help wanting to know, and so I wonder. In circles.

Around this point I feel a headache coming on and silliness ensues.

Oh come on, I can't have been the only one thinking it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Seven Years in Debate

According to my memory, "not long ago" I invested in a Veritas Hold Down and, after a suitable interval for angsting over it, I bored one (one) hole in the bench to take it.

And it was good.

Heck, it still is good. The well-memoried will recall it earned particular admiration as my trusty assistant in the Emmert vice (or vise) fitting Saga. Of course, after that wholesale destruction, boring holes in the bench was, in comparison, such a non-event as to be barely worth a mention. But despite planning to do so, I failed to add any more holes.

Time passed, and on the UK Workshop forum a chap offered ye olde fashioned holdfasts for sale. Being easily swayed by the prevailing fashions, I bought a pair.

Honestly? They work an' all, but I'm not a big fan. The hitting, the rustiness ('cos you can't wax 'em, or they cease to grip) and so forth just don't appeal like the Veritas does. Forgive me; I'm clearly stuck in the 20thC.

Anyway, I still couldn't come to a decision on additional holes, even though I now actively needed them. I even asked you lot for your input on where to put them in the hopes of actually reaching a decision. No dice.

Well, finally, the iron entered into my soul and I bethought to myself "Buggerit" and I've bored two (count 'em - two) more holes. And with the wonders of the blog archive, I've ascertained it's only taken me a little over seven (SEVEN) years to do it.

What the...? How in hell did that happen?! Where did "not long ago" go?

At least having given myself time to think the job through, I was pretty clear on what I wanted to do. The mistake I made in boring the first hole was not lining it up with the adjacent dog hole - a useful feature in that you can stick another dog in the holdfast hole when planing wider stuff. By some quirk of the gods, that dog hole now no longer exists thanks to the Emmert anyway, but I knew I wanted to correct that oversight this time round.

So first I squared off from the existing dog to get the front edge of the hole.

Then gauged from the centre line of the original hold down hole and intersected with it. I know the Veritas will reach comfortably almost to the dog hole, but checked Richard The Blacksmith's, and found they were within about 1.5 in. Plenty of coverage there then.

Then came a moment to pause and wonder just how much offset I needed to allow finding the centre point for boring the hole. If you use a round dog with a flat cut into the 3/4 inch diameter then obviously it's going to be less than half that diameter. Well I have a couple of simple wooden dogs I made for the Benchtop Bench with a flat top that lines up with the 3/4 in shaft that I like, so I elected to split the hole diameter exactly in half to get my centre point to fit them.

 Like this.

Then to the bit selection. I elected to get out a BugBear Special for this job. A (long) while back I managed to shear off the lead screw of my, at the time, only actual 3/4in "3/4in" Jennings pattern auger bit. I was unhappy but resigned; rust sometimes does more than can just be fixed cosmetically. Anyway, BB very generously sent me a replacement for Christmas that year. Or rather an upgrade, for this was polished and sharpened to, I'd say, better than new. If BB ever wanted to get into a sideline selling refurbished auger bits for outrageous prices, I'd be first in line with the testimonial. It's a pleasure to use. Anyway, I thought I'd chuck in a close-up of it in case anyone found it helpful to see what an efficiently working auger bit should look like. Take particular note of the excellent state of the lead screw, auger bit neophytes.

Anyway, back to the hole. Last time I just used one square; set up behind the bit and in line with the hole, that pretty much covers 90° in both axis. However, I have two small squares, so what the heck. Let's live a little.

Now that's a sharp bit. It was doing all the work, and I was just the klutz turning the crank and trying not to get in the way, as it should be. Given that I now have extensive knowledge of just how hard this beech is, I have to say it's ridiculously effortless. Indeed it wasn't until the lead screw was through the other side and ceased pulling the bit that I realised I was almost done. Good practice tells you to finish the hole from the other side to avoid splintering out, but that was a little impractical in this case. As was clamping a backing piece. However, if you're careful not to apply too much pressure (just enough to cut, but not aggressively so) and your bit is good and sharp, you can sometimes get away with it if the gods care to smile upon you. Which, in this case, they did.

Had to be a first time, I s'pose.

A monstrous snail countersink, which gets used once in a blue moon, put a neat chamfer in the top edge to prevent the holdfast shanks ragging up the top.

Look, ma! It's a hole with a piece of metal in it. Exciting, innit?

Moment of truth as I drop the dog in and... huzzah, it lines up beautifully. Pause to preen - then bore another one.

Look, ma! It's two (two) holes with two (two) pieces of metal in them. My excitement knows no bounds. Bet yours doesn't either, eh, gentle reader?

Okay, so it's not exactly exciting in the great scheme of things. But it is the application of tools (eleven) to proper wood (not popsicle sticks) by me (Alf). To me at least, that is kinda exciting.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stanley Sweetheart Chisel

Well this damning evidence that I've, once again, failed to resist the lure of a chisel was going to be posted last week. Then I bethought to myself, "Self, just how often do the tool gods provide one with an actual Sweetheart to rhapsodise over on Valentine's Day?" So here I am. But first, a poem:

Roses are occasionally red,
Violets are inaccurately described as blue,
If you were a chisel,
I'd be all over you.

extract from "All The World's a Chisel" by Anon. Unpublished.

So chisels. Me and chisels, eh? Total sucker for them. Sharp onna stick to some; lifelong attraction to me. When the Stanley "Sweetheart" 750 Series redux version first hit the shelves, I inevitably came over all Gollum and wanted precious. But I resisted, and even thought I'd kicked the hobbit. Er, habit.

Yeah, right.

My helpless throwing of money to Tom Lie-Nielsen for those chisels of his in O-1 continues despite my best efforts not to be a slave to sockets, but if I was to wait for him to divvy up with anything over 1 inch I'd probably be looking at it only with a view to inclusion amongst my grave goods. If I was an optimist. So, somehow, I rationalised the purchase of a 32mm (nominal 1.25in) Stanley, to kinda match the L-Ns. Sort of. If you squint. And scratch that itch of curiosity about them at the same time.

Despite being well behind the times on this, naturally I felt compelled to share my first impressions of it. So here 'tis. And yes, it is 32mm and not 1.25 inches wide; the seeker of imperially exact sizes must look elsewhere. In fact it only just about squeezed into the box along with the instructions. The former bears a Union flag and the charmingly elusive statement that the chisel is "Made in England with Global Components ™". This may possibly translate to a bloke called Trevor sitting above a kebab shop in Sheffield with a stack of boxes waiting to be assembled on one side of him and a pile of "Global Components ™" made by Mr Li Ping of Chow-Down™ province, south-east China to the other. Who knows? I expect Stanley have a whole department ready to shift production to wherever is most financially beneficial on an hourly basis.

The instructions comprise a whole page of closely spaced text (a side and a half) thanking you for your purchase and brief advice on how to stop the handle falling off. Viz: Hit it. Or failing that, rough it up a bit. With abrasives, not more violence. But it is in twenty-five languages, so it's nice to see Stanley are upholding their fine tradition of providing virtually no information but dazzling us with their linguistics.

Now let me go forth and compare it to a 3/4 inch L-N - you can't stop me. They don't match. Well, I knew that. You can probably play spot the difference just as well as I can, so go ahead. I'll wait.

Yes, the handle's slightly shorter, bit rounder on the end, slightly different shape. Oh, and it's got a very clear and rather fetching Stanley Sweetheart mark on it. Which I like. The finish is not dissimilar to the L-N but it readily demonstrated why the only advice in the instructions concerns dealing with the handle dropping out of the socket - because it did just that. I whacked it back on and it seems to be holding thus far. Wood is unspecified; cynically I expect that's so they can change that on a hourly financially advantageous basis too.

Unfortunately this one's had a bit of ding, which is mildly sigh-worthy. I elected to let it go subject to the state of the blade; if that was okay, I can live with a dinged handle that I haven't had the pleasure of dinging first. Which is deeply unfair on the likes of L-N and Veritas, where I'd probably be all over them like a rash wanting my premium chisel to be utterly pristine and what were they going to do about it. Verily, one goes into a Stanley tool purchase with much lower expectations. Much.

Anyway, so much for the stick, on to the sharp bit.

Side on, Stanley to the left, L-N to the right, you get a better idea of how they differ at the operating end. The Stanley blade is quite a bit thinner than the L-N, explaining the less elegant transition between the blade and the socket. viz: It's a step because, well, there's a step up in thickness to the socket. Thinner it may be, but it seems sturdy enough. Ideally you'd want to compare like sizes to get an idea of balance and so forth, but it's probably an active advantage in the wider size to have a thinner blade to reduce the weight a tad.

The sides or lands are a little thicker than the L-N. Really I should have offered them up against an old Marples or somesuch *looks out of the window, where it's pi-, sh-, raining heavily, and decides to do without* Despite that I'd say it's still well within proper bevel edge territory, as opposed to firmer with the corners knocked off "bevel edge". Some folks might cavil and say it's still too thick, but personally I think they're fine unless you're deeply into the more pretentious narrower-than-a-supermodel's-ass DTs, in which case you're probably into more pretentious chisels too. And possibly into supermodels, but that's your lookout.
Outta the box, the machining on the backs is... noticeable. But even. The lines lengthwise are just from the plastic of the edge guard they thoughtfully provide. Already I'm thinking wistfully of the lapped-flatter-than-Lincolnshire backs of the Veritas chisels. The bevel is square to the sides and seems to be ground at 30°. I can't seem to discover what working angle is actually necessary for the steel (whatever the mix is), or whether I could grind it a little shallower and have my secondary at 30° instead, as I generally prefer. Alas, Stanley, my hombres, you fail to tell me in any language.

A minute, if that, on my coarse DMT and we can begin to see what we're looking at. High at the edges and low in the middle, which is the way you want it if it's not going to emulate Lincolnshire right out of the box. At this point I was much cheered and thus resigned to the pre-dinged handle remaining in my life.

Marker pen applied to the back and then a couple of minutes on some 240g wet'n'dry. Not a scientific choice - merely that a piece of it was lying about handy. The time isn't exact either, but generally I lose the will to care after anything more than five minutes, so it can't be more than that. Looks pretty good, huh? Noticeable dip in the middle, but if were Japanese we'd be giving that a fancy name, saying it was a feature, and going out for a saki 'n' sushi dinner without another thought, so I'm not unhappy.

At this point I'm reminded that I have sorely neglected to give the feedback on some honing stuff like wot I ought to have. I fear my heart is not in the mechanics of sharpening and never will be. But anyway, I followed up with one of those Veritas® Steel Honing Plates with some, um, 6ยต diamond paste, iirc. Works very nicely, although I have some reservations over having more than one plate and grade of paste because of the risk of cross contamination. I may not be a sufficiently tidy and organised w'worker to pull it off successfully...

Anyway, as you can see, it done good. But now you may also be able to see the right hand corner of the edge, and that it's still a little shy of being flat. Le sigh. I'm not going to fret about it just yet, as I may well be opting to regrind the primary bevel anyway, and by the time I've faffed with that, chances are I'll have gone past that dip anyway. We'll see.
Second bit of fancy diamond use now. Well if a girl can't dabble in diamonds for Valentine's, when can she? These are the diamond lapping sheets that Lee Valley are stocking now. Much, much enthusiasm for same from them about the wondrous nature of this miraculous stuff, and I was inclined to be a little "Yeah, yeah, boys and their toys". But it is incredibly fast, and what a polish. They're good, and I'm slightly surprised I haven't heard more ooo-ing and aah-ing over them round about the wooden corners of the interweb. Downside is twofold. One is applying the things to a substrate without any grit or bubbles. Rather like applying a protective screen to an iPhone or iPad, and not advisable in the dusty conditions of a woodworking 'shop. Secondly is the inherent issue with all things "Scary Sharp" - you can't push, only pull, or you can kiss the paper/film adios. So good for honing guide use; not so hot for the technique I naturally favour if free-handing. Upsides? Fast, uber sharp, very portable.

Once I had an edge inclined to split atoms, I fished out an end of pine from the scrap box and gave it a real world test on the end grain. Seems legit.

Well really, why should planes get all the wafer thin shaving gloatage anyway? Not bad for sharp onna stick. The end grain left behind is suitably smooth and polished, so all told, I'd say it passed the sharp test just fine.

Only time and use will tell how good or not the steel is, of course, but as things stand, I like this chisel. More than I expected to, actually. What I expected was to walk away, shaking my head and reminding myself that, socket chisel-wise, L-N pretty much own one of my kidneys by now for a reason. But the differences aren't as huge as they could be. It's not an L-N, but it appears to be a decent chisel, actually suitable for woodworking rather than a chisel-shaped device designed with opening paint cans in mind. Maybe I got lucky with the state of the blade, but you can only go on what's in front of you. The main niggle is probably the "Global Components ™" issue and use of "Made in England" when, most likely, it's not. Or not all of it. Or won't always be. Or might be sometimes, and then not. Or... Well, it's playing fast and loose with the tool buyer's understanding of what they're buying and I don't care for that. But that's not the chisel's fault. I'd send it flowers. Not a dozen red roses or nuffink; but definitely a mixed bouquet.

Y'know, somehow I don't think this method of tool rating is really going to catch on...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You can never have enough clamps


Apparently it's a coat rack. For people who are afraid their coats way simply float away if not adequately held down.

Ack, I'm not adverse to the repurposing of defunct tools - there are a few chez Alf that even now I'm thinking to hack up some more and make something liable to make the more tool-precious wince - but those clamps look in working order. Sigh. Tool lovers should approach the scary world of "Etsy" with extreme caution, that's for sure.

Maybe get an adult to go with you to hold your hand or check if it's safe first.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cracking Carving, Gromit

If I cast my mind back far enough to the doing of any actual woodwork, I recall that occasionally I'm moved to wonder why the working of wood appeals to me when the raw material can be such a sonofa- um, female dog. It splits, it warps, it rots, it dents, it's... Ack, infuriating stuff.

But of course it makes up for it other ways, and let's face it, we all like a bit of a challenge.

Clearly this chap, an unemployed wood carver, didn't feel that wood was sufficient challenge. So now he does this.

Having watched the recent short series on telly, a collaboration between the BBC and the V&A, on British woodworking, and in particular the episode on Grinling Gibbons, I was already feeling plenty inadequate about my complete lack of carving nous. But this? Sheesh.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Tool Erasers

Without having first seen a picture, I got hopeful that these were for erasing mistakes made with tools. You know, instead of the mythical but much-desired "board stretcher", you could at least have the "saw cut eraser". The "mortise hole mover" maybe.  But no.

On the other hand, as an office-friendly means of demonstrating your tool addiction, they're kinda fun. You never know when a rubber hammer head in the pen pot could draw out a connection to real tools. Although little plane-shaped erasers would be even better...

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Old Widder Women

Still ignoring the hunks of lignum vitae disguised as lawn bowls, let me instead talk about the plane as seen in Monday's group shot.

You may legitimately argue that I really don't need any more wooden moulding planes to clean up and not use, and you'd have a point. But this one struck me as potentially useful and not often seen, 'cos look. It's a V plane.
I make it a 67° V, the significance of which eludes me, so I suspect the "looks about right" school of tool making. Coincidentally my very own alma mater. Iron is pitched at 55°, which if memory serves, is "middle pitch" and intended for softwoods. Oh well, can't win them all.

My initial thought was "User-converted Round", but I see that John Whelan in The Wooden Plane lists under "Other Angle Cutting Planes" the official existence of such animals, so I assume they were commercially available. Or else folks were per force reduced to converting rounds as a matter of course and planemakers were failing to say "Oh look, there's a market to exploit." The latter, in particular, a likelihood I frankly doubt. Anyway, Whelan:

  A molding plane with a V-shaped sole has no common name in English other than V-plane. These have various uses. A small one is sometimes used to relieve the inner edges of a groove joint to facilitate entry of the mating tongue. The partitions in pigeon-hole racks are sometimes bevelled at their edges and held in place by V-shaped grooves, cut by the V-plane. Fitted with a movable fence, it cuts a decorative groove in matched boards or a groove in panelling as a start for linen-fold carving.

See? Useful. Especially if I get the urge to put pigeons in racks some time.
As is so often the frustrating case, a previous user has not only obliterated the name of a user yet more previous, but also done his best on the maker's mark too. But I defy you, W. Roberts, and with some judicious tilting and squinting under various light conditions, I made it out as "HOLBROOK".

To the Batmobile! Or rather the ever-useful 3rd Edition of British Planemakers from 1700. Which isn't as fast, but has lower fuel costs. Although periodically I see what kind of prices that darn book is currently commanding, and am briefly tempted to cash in the gas in the tank, so to speak. Then it comes through with another fascinating bit of history, and I know I'd miss it too much. Anyway, Holbrook.

HOLBROOK, George ----------------- Bristol
Narrow Wine St. ----------------- 1799 - 1815
9 All Saints St. ----------------- 1816 - 1822

9 All Saints St. ----------------- 1823 - 1838

HOLBROOK, Martha Lucy
The Holbrook Plane Manufactory, -- 1839 - 1849
8 & 9 All Saints St.

Hit the brakes! To my extreme delight we appear to have a connection to a Merry Planemaking Widow. BPMs has a fair sprinkling of such ladies, who carried on the business after the demise of their husbands. I doubt they were knee-deep in beech shavings, cranking out the complex moulders - more that they owned the workshop (more often than not, they were living over the shop, after all), and a trusted former apprentice or foreman of the old man's would be in charge of the actual wood butchery.

But it gets better. Back to BPMs:

  After 1849 the Holbrook Plane Manufactory was listed under S. Barton in the directory and the subsequent history can be found under that entry. However, it is apparent that they continued to mark the planes HOLBROOK. CO [common]

Okay, so we're obviously going to be opening up the time period on this a little more, although at no point did I get a vibe this was a plane dating from Daddy George's time anyway. Let us repair to S. Barton's locale. It's not far.

BARTON, S ----------------- Bristol
9 All Saint's St. ----------------- 1849 - 1853

Told you it wasn't far. Gets better.

BARTON, Mrs Martha Lucy ----------------- 1855 - 1873
Holbrook's Plane Factory, All Saint's St.

Yep, that's right. Not just one planemaker's widow, but two. These days you'd probably be looking with suspicion at this whole thing and making a four hour mini-series out of it, emphasis heavy on the intrigue and the chances of further planemakers propping up the patio, chez Martha. But we'll assume Martha wasn't a serial terminator of Bristol planemakers, just readily attached to them. Like Marilyn Monroe's character in Some Like It Hot was to saxophone players, but possibly for more practical reasons. BPMs explains some of it:

  Stephen Barton was the son of Adam Barton, a saw maker and tavern keeper, whose business (started in 1812 and continuing until at least 1870) was next door to George Holbrook. Stephen married John Holbrook's widow, Martha Lucy, and took over the Holbrook Plane Manufactory. After his death(?) in 1853, Martha Lucy continued to run the Holbrook Plane Manufactory until 1873. As there is only one report of a plane marked BARTON, BRISTOL and numerous planes marked HOLBROOK, it must be assumed that this was the mark used by the factory, whoever was in charge.

Whoever was in charge? Who are we kidding? I'm betting it was Martha Lucy. And what happened to her after 1873? Died, one presumes.

Or did she go hunting a Greenslade...?

Monday, February 04, 2013

On Safari

I love the smell of rust in the morning - it smells like... well, lots of work to clean up, to be honest. But aside from that, fresh rust means new old tools and discoveries. In other words I had a little relapse on Saturday (that'll be an old tool hunting relapse, as opposed to the other things I've had a relapse over recently, such as chisels, books, and so forth).

Set aside the plane and the four hunks of lignum vitae cunningly disguised as lawn bowls for the time being. Yes, I know, I know. Another brace. Not a brace of pedigree either - indeed it's already been described in terms of "Woolworths". And not in a good "Lovely pick'n'mix" kind of way. But have I not already confessed to a weakness for braces of unusual size or design or make? Yes, I have. This one ticks the middle box, because I can't recall seeing a brace with a Yankee-a-like ratchet mechanism before.

Mind you, my memory's not what it was. Apart from that, this has very little merit really, apart from being a handy 8in. sweep and if not half, at least two thirds lighter (and 100% better balanced) than the Stanley equivalent already in my arsenal.

Having cleaned it up, alas it speaketh only unto the word "Foreign" on both the frame and the chuck shell. Somewhere or other I read that indicates likely between the two wars of German manufacture as, for understandable reasons, German stuff wasn't the first choice of the average Brit at the time. It's been a bit hammered by the aforementioned rust, and it's not going to win any prizes as a superior example of brace technology, but I kinda like it.

Reckon it'll make a good screwdriver when I next need to talk the torque.