Thursday, September 26, 2013

When is a plane till not a plane till

You know those fair and fĂȘte things where you guess the weight of the fruit cake or how many sweets are in the jar? This is like that, except you don't get to win the cake. Or in this case, the jar of planes.

"The jar of... What?" Do I hear you splutter?

Well it's like this... A few weeks ago I looked at this unexceptional Kilner jar knock-off, and thought "Self, I wonder how many planes you could fit in this jar?"

Well you know me and wondering - it's fatal. Instead of having the thought, discarding the thought, and then going and doing something useful, the thought stuck. The thought persisted. Dammit, the thought positively nagged. So you can guess what happened next.

Well I say "Next", but I mean a coupla weeks later, obviously. Doesn't do to rush.

I gave myself some parameters to avoid the temptation of asking El Presidente if I could borrow a gross (or two) of key rings and totally skew the results. Viz: The planes have to be of a functioning variety; they must be in one piece and not broken down into component parts; and they must come out of the experience unscathed. (The last one was particularly important.) I also wanted to avoid an exclusively Canadian jar, if at all possible. Just because.

So a single one litre glass preserving/food storage jar, approximately 6in tall. How many whole and functioning hand planes can I fit in it and still seal the lid?

And just to get you started, yes, I did use the Veritas miniatures, but as you can see, they didn't get me very far...
Answer next week. I know you'll be on tenterhooks.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tea Tree

For the style-concious tea-swilling* woodworker, these might be just the ticket:

At least I assume they can take hot drinks; it doesn't actually say, does it? Of course you could make your own; if you're suitably roundy-spinny equipped - and talented - you could make something even better for the beverage of your choice. Or attempt to:
(Forgive the picture - it's ancient enough to have been on film. Wood is Mountain Laurel, iirc.)

It's just the attaching of the handle that can be a worry; hot drinks and epoxy, for instance, could be potentially disastrous. Hence my slight wondering about the resilience of that Japanese example; it's a lot of yen for a water mug. Good-looking though.

*Or coffee. This is an equal beverage-swilling blog.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Still a workbench

The Society for the Prevention of the Exploitation of Workbenches (SPEW) is slacking again. Actually I'm two minds about this one; it is still being used for something creative, just not for what it was intended. But should any working bench really be subjected to quite so much pastel?

Found it here - you'll have to scroll down past an awful lot of glass jars full of buttons, and plenteous ribbons, so I'll append the caption and save you some possible pain if that's not your idea of a good time:

"I orginally bought this workbench to use as my worktable but, at only 13 inches, it ended up not being deep enough. I still love it, though! It didn't photograph well because the flash made the wood look a lot lighter than it is. I paid $110 for it at Pappy's Antiques and put a glass top on it for two reasons. The top is pretty rough since it was actually some man's workbench. And, again because it was used, it has oil and grease on it."

Good heavens, it was actually some man's workbench. With oil and grease on it. There's a surprise.

Ack, no, fair enough - the world of buttons and ribbons is short on grease, I suppose. On the bright side, it's not been busted up and may yet live again as a workbench sometime in the future. As long as no-one's cut out a heart shape in the middle of the apron in the meantime. Even the most dedicated Spewer may cavil at that in their w'shop.

Monday, September 16, 2013


As a connoisseur of bits of tree, do you have a yen for an original interior design concept? Is your dining room crying out for an authentic hovel-in-the-woods bodger motif? Does your loving family inexplicably objects to piles of logs in the living room? I have the (not inexpensive) solution for you.

Best feature? No Woodworm! Worst feature? Spotting a log you have just the project for...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun for Woodwork

Whilst looking for something else entirely, as often seems to happen, my eye was caught by something woodwork related. (You can take the woman out of the w'shop, but you can't make her think not notice woodwork, and so forth). 'Tis, I believe, in Chinese - but oddly enough my grasp of Oriental languages is right up there with my grasp of every other language. i.e. Il est absent.

Naturally I Googled for further enlightenment. Brace yourself - the result is best quality Chinglish, as beloved by many a machinery "manual".

"Considerate of the ability of girls to play the natural beauty of women, home carpentry, garden carpentry, so to make furniture for the doll pet doll's house, there had never seen a perfect rendering of a unique thirty new pieces of woodworking. The first book of the girls entry carpentry, less masculine and more the soft, capacity and budget constraints, and teach you a completion of a beautiful carpentry work."

I further translated that to "It's beginner's woodwork for girls."

Excellent. Except, well, inevitably it follows the well-trodden path of designating something "for girls" by the inclusion of hearts and flowers. Many, many heart cut-outs, and plenty of flowers. Chuck in a few cutesy animals and yeah, definitely "for girls".

But there we are, that how us girls and out natural beauty gotta roll, it seems. What can ya do? The actual projects, though of the nail-it-together variety aren't actually too bad at all. Most of them - with the substitution of cars and footballs, naturally - could even be made by boys. Despite their lack of natural beauty.

I loved this painting technique; makes it look so easy, but I just know I'd have those colours mixed up into a hideous brown sludge before you could say "chicken chow mein".

My absolute favourite aspect of this book though, is the author's (I assume) cameo roles. Periodically she pops up to wag an admonishing finger or generally glower with folded arms to make sure you Jolly Well Do Things Correctly. She's big on wearing aprons, sensible shoes, and keeping the workspace tidy too. At least as far as I can tell.

I've mentally dubbed her Asian Mary Poppins, because I can totally imagine her taking one look at my usual working conditions and exclaiming "Spit Spot" (and then probably fainting away in horror.) In fact I may be moved to adopt her as my voice of conscience; "What would Asian Mary Poppins do?" sorta thing.

Incidentally, it strikes me that a woodworking Mary Poppins would be rather cool - that carpet bag would be really handy for carrying around tools. Eight foot sash clamps. Planks. Entire workbenches...

Monday, September 09, 2013

Used Tools

Wandered over to the Lost Art Press blog for the first time in ages this morning. Is it April again? Or is The Schwarz genuine in his disappointment that his tools look used when he's been using them? Crivens. Wish my tools were showing signs of use...

Also, pliers to tighten fences and depth stops? Radical. Not at all mentioned by anyone before (and plenty of others too) and endlessly on various fora - with the added obvious caveat to pad the jaws, stoopid.

An alternative, if you don't mind tweaking your tools to suit your convenience, is to drill small holes to take a nail/tommy bar. Rather like the tightening method for putting some fence rods into the body of certain planes. Like a Stanley #78, f'rinstance. The danger with that system is you can easily apply too much welly and break something - hence my advice at the above link to go with small pliers.

But first, wipe off the wax, scuff up the bars a little, maybe try a little rosin. And for the love of Norm, check on your technique. Of all the combis and ploughs/plows I've had, only one has actually needed pliers to keep it set in normal conditions.

Anyway. Love The Schwarz madly, but really, he does come up with some daft stuff sometimes.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Shoot, that wasn't supposed to happen

Do I need a dedicated shooting plane?

Assuming I ever put plane to timber ever agin, obviously. But exercising our vivid imaginations and dwelling in a rich and varied fantasy life, let's pretend that's a faint possibility.

This is a question I've tussled with many times, even before the current onslaught of 51-a-like shininess from The Man From Maine and El Presidente, which is, naturally, why the question has come up again.

There was the fleeting possibility of ownership of a Rodgers Patent Miter Planer, of course, which is more a whole separate category of "Do I need a dedicated shooting appliance of epic proportions and humungous weight?"

The answer to that was "no". Somewhat surprisingly.

Then there's the very lovey Philly Planes Skew Miter (or mitre, as I'd like it to be, being a Brit an' all, but the market dictates I s'pose). Something about the sheer simplicity of the thing alone is appealing, but toss in the low angle, the skew, and it being made by a thoroughly nice fellow, and gosh, how tempted was I?

So then why the "no"? 'Tis two-fold, and really answers the question in relation to the 51-a-likes.

Firstly, how much shooting do I really do? And even more, how much shooting do I really need to do? (Assuming I'm actually making something...)

Actually, not much. I suffer as much as the next modern hand tool user in being influenced by the results power tools give us. A powered mitre saw will give you a glassy smooth finish on end grain, so we come to expect it and think that's what we need. Most of the time it's not, and just a by-product of the cut which is what we actually want. But you get used to it, and marking from it, and so forth, so you find yourself shooting a perfectly acceptable hand sawn bit of end grain just so it's like wot the tailed devils create. On the basis of need, honestly I doubt the majority of us really need a dedicated shooting plane. Want, that's a different kettle of poisson, and a perfectly acceptable as a reason. I have several tools that can testify to my supporting want as sufficient justification. Mainly chisels...

But let's assume I have need for really accurate shooting, because, y'know, it's not impossible. Perhaps the vague urge to add more moulding to my arsenal might actually bear fruit one day. But really, just any reason where, like a good little woodworker, I want to work religiously with the edge and face marks against the shooting board fence for maximum accuracy and find I have need to shoot the left hand end of the work.

Kids! These planes are handed. Skew is a wonderful thing on end grain and most desirable and I see no point in a dedicated shooting plane that doesn't provide it, but it is totally limiting in which side you can shoot on. Now I gather the LV will be appearing in a lefthand configuration as well, but hey, that's starting to get seriously spendy in both money and space. (Haven't checked the L-N. To be honest I haven't lingered on the LV site either - there keeping being more chisels, so I'm forced to run away and hand my wallet to strangers to hold for safety.)

Okay, you say, what are the odds you'll need to work the other side? Have you thus far?

Well, nope. But.

Firstly, the gods being the fickle blighters they are, will inevitably dictate that the very first shooting task I have after purchasing a dedicated plane for the job will require it. Secondly, I bitterly resent being dictated to by the tool that's there to aid me in the task. It's one of the reasons I dislike the tailed devices; too often the project is dictated to by what the machine can do, and frankly that sucks. So if I want to shooting something exactly so, and have stumped up the cash to do so, it better be able to do the job and not make me work round it.

Thus it is that I keep answering the "Do I need a dedicated shooting plane?" with an somewhat infuriating "no". More infuriating still, I seem to have managed to argue myself round to answering "no" to the alternative "Do I want a dedicated shooting plane?" Which is frankly unacceptable. What's to become of a tool junky who isn't jonesing for the latest thing?

Someone clunk me over the head with something heavy and put me out of my misery. Or, no, wait. Tell you what.

Shoot me.