29 June 2008

Horses for Courses

What a fantastic day we all had yesterday with the MiniBash. Paul Chapman had just taken delivery in the last couple of weeks of a pair of rather tasty Wenzloff saws and was anxious to learn how use them to best effect, so he came down to Salisbury fairly early and we had a one-to-one fairly intensive session on cutting and making dovetail joints, then it was over to Pete's for a scrumptious lunch laid on by Pam, with some more 'shop activity in the afternoon...fabulous!
One of the things that came out of the day was a suggestion from Paul following on from our very successful morning...why didn't I open up this sort of tuition to one and all? The logic behind the idea is very straight forward in that there are loads of places that will offer workshop courses (you only need to have a quick flick through the back end of Furniture & Cabinetmaking to see them) but they all last for several days and can be prohibitivly expensive which might put them out of the financial reach of many keen woodworkers. In addition, Paul pointed out that in the 'good old days' years ago, woodwork was taught to pupils at school and unfortunatly, that don't happen any more, with the result that someone wishing to learn has either got to do a lot of reading and make pretty slow progress (and lots of mistakes) or they can circumvent the process and go on a course. So what could I offer?
My background is that I was one of the last of the old fashioned woodwork teachers in main stream education ( I was at the 'chalk face for 20 years) and I have a large (20x12') fully equiped 'shop and would be able to offer intensive tailor made, one day courses (on a Saturday) to suit the needs of the individual. I also spent some time in a couple of professional cabinet shops so know the ropes from a full-time makers perspective. I've been making stuff now (mostly cabinet making) since the early 70's so I've got few years experience tucked away. The days activities would out of neccessity be based on the correct and safe use of hand tools at the bench for planing, joint cutting, tool maintenance and tuning, veneering, laminating, in fact almost anything that the student wanted and a programme could be designed to suit the individual's requirements. Although I've got most, if not all the power tools in the 'shop, anyone visiting for the day wouldn't be allowed to use them but the correct use and procedures for each could be taught...I've been using a table saw for over 30 years now and still have all my digits! Anyone coming from further afield is welcome to stay overnight (at a small aditional charge) on Friday in our spare bedroom so that a complete days 'shop activity can be undertaken on Saturday, say from 8.30 to about 5.00pm. Meals, teas and coffees, of course would be included on the day starting off with a decent cooked breakfast for anyone staying overnight.
When we discussed the idea at the MiniBash, all thought it was a pretty interesting idea and one worth pursuing, so if anyone is interested, either leave a comment here on the Blog or PM me on UKW.

27 June 2008

Delicious Anticipation

Paul's coming down to my place early tomorrow and we're going to have a bit of a session on making dovetails and the particular way that I do them, so it promises to be quite a good morning. I prepared some beech last night so that we've got plenty of material to make sawdust with and I'll also need to have a sharpening session on the LN chisels tonight as well. The other thing I'll do is to assemble the Elm Cabinet II for Paul to have a good look at, will be useful to get some feedback when he can eyeball it close to...
At about 1210 we've got to pack up the 'shop and head over to Pete's for yet another scrumptious lunch. If it's any thing to go by, the one we had last year is what culinary dreams are made off, absolutely fabulous. Philly and Chisel will also be there so it ought to be a very good day...fantastic food and lots of sawdusty talk.

24 June 2008

Slight hitch

A lot has been done to the cabinet stand in the last few days, so much so in fact that it's gone together in the dry state absolutely 'spot on' which is quite good. When the cabinet was put on top the whole thing looked about right...a bit harsh and linear at this stage I have to say but there's going to be a lot of shaping and general softening of contours to be done yet so the whole thing will look quite refined when finished. The only slight problem is that the through mortises on the legs are very tight (at least a couple of them are). Pete has said that Titebond III is the stuff to use as it's very runny and will actually lubricate the joint as it goes in before setting, so that's something to think about. I'm very reluctant to skim any more off the faces as just the merest smidgen too much and the thing becomes loose rather than fitting snugly.
The only very slight problem, just the tiniest suspicion of a hitch is that when SWIMBO saw in the 'shop at the weekend...she didn't like it.
I intend to complete the piece anyway and write the article for F&C... then I guess the cabinet will have to be sold, but I'm not quite sure how to go about that. Taking a fairly jaundiced view it makes me wonder whether it's worth making anything else for the house, or maybe just continue to make the stuff I like to do and then sell it on? Have to wait and see what happens.

19 June 2008

Progress and Decisions?

Good progress being made with the chairs from next door. I asked about the age and apparently they're about 70 years old so have seen some wear and tear. I can't get over just how appallingly they've been put together though, held mostly with bloody great nails! They're taking roughly a couple of nights to do each one...wack it all apart and re glue on the first night, put it all back together on the second. I'm going to charge them £30 to do all four chairs which I think is reasonable but they've got a refectory style dining room table to match the chairs which is also in a bit of a bad way as the top needs to be completely sorted. They may want it done...have to wait and see.
When that's all done it'll be back to the Elm Cabinet II as SWIMBO is anxious to see a bit more progress on it. It seems to be coming along quite well now after all the set backs of the back panel, I think overall when it's finished it'll be quite pleasant.
There's going to be an article plane making coming out in the Aug issue of F&C and I'm tempted to get hold of the LN No9 for the shooting board...or should I get some BS chisels, or one of those rather dainty Veritas ploughs? On the other hand I want at some point to get hold of a bigger bandsaw. Decisions, decisions...

14 June 2008

A nice pair...

I've just got the next pair of knives done, and though I say it myself, they do seem to have turned out rather well...a 'nice pair' you might say. I decided this time to forgo my customary three coats of finishing oil and instead try out a few coats of blonde shellac and as you can see from the pic, there's a better finish on the ebony, so this is probably the way I'll do it now...still finished with a light application of wax over the top after leaving overnight for the shellac to fully harden off.

I started off polishing at around 6.30pm a was putting one a coat of shellac every 10 minutes or so, but proceedings came to an abrupt halt round about 7.50 as after a quick perusal of t'internet I saw that 'Tora, Tora,Tora' was on the telly, so it was out with a cold bottle of vino and settle back on the sofa. However it was on ITV4 with all the bloody adverts...and I hate bloody adverts all through a half-decent film but on this particular occasion I didn't mind too much as at each break I legged it out the the 'shop and put on a couple more coats of shellac so that around 10pm last night the ebony was positively gleaming.

I enjoyed the film last night as I hadn't seen it for ages...much better that the utter crap produced a few years ago with Ben Afflick and a 'love story' attached. Me and SWIMBO had a trip to Pearl Harbor a few years ago so it was all the more interesting for us. Here's some pics of yours truly on the memorial to the 'Arizona' that went down so quickly taking about 1200 sailors to the bottom of the harbour, it's a very sobering thought to contemplate all the carnage that took place 60 odd years ago on the very spot...

12 June 2008

$64000 Question

I got up this morning (as I usually do most mornings) and peeked out the upstairs window to have a quick look at the weather before heading off the the bathroom for a shower and shave.
Wet. The 'shop roof was wet, the pond was wet (which means that the fish were as well...needs some thought, that one) and the patio was wet....but not the cats, as they're far too clever to get really soggy. With an increasing sense of doom, I finished my ablutions and dashed downstairs, (got dressed first though) out the back door and into the 'shop to have a look inside. The $64000 question is...did it leak? Once inside, I got down on my hands and knees and had a good look along the floor for the impending signs of wet creeping in...a nasty brown wet stain just above the floor on the wall. To my huge relief, not a drop had managed to worm it's way inside, all was dry, so my efforts to date have been successful, all that now remains is to complete the last corner and then the final side.
We've had some very pleasant new neighbours move in within the last couple of weeks and once the preliminary 'how dos' were over with, they asked me to repair their dining room chairs, which had been given to them by the out-laws. These were solid oak chairs, decent material but appallingly constructed. Apart from the tusk tenons on the stretcher rail they were all held together with bloody horrible nails! After a lot of rather enjoyable work with a big lump hammer the first one has been completely refurbed and handed back last night...seat re glued, frame sorted out and usable now for a good few years to come. This particular one was the worst as any weight on it would make the imminent danger of collapse more than a distant possibility, more like a definite certainty! Three more to go then, shouldn't take too long.
Back to the marking knives tonight, which ought to be finished quite soon. The main task is to heat treat the blades and then grind them on the Tormek, after which they can be epoxied into the handles...lots of polishing to do though before that happens. Onwards and upwards...

09 June 2008

Starvation Diet

What a fabulous weekend, weather wise! I had intended to spend most of it in the 'shop but SWIMBO had other plans so I only managed Sunday instead. I used the day to carry on the repairs to the outside and can cheerfully say that the end is in sight as I've reached the last corner and have only got the fourth side to do so it's a case of down the home straight to the starting point. We had some torrential rain a few days ago which was a good test...suffice to say that it did leak in a couple of places but now it's dried out I put on a further application of silicone on the dodgy areas which ought to do the job. Fingers crossed.
We've arranged a bit of a Bash at the end of this month on the 28th. Paul has got some new toys from America which we're all going to have a look at and play with as well, Chisel is coming over from Basingstoke so it promises to be a really good day and probably the best part is that Pam and Pete Newton are providing lunch...starvation diet is in order then for a few days prior! The plan for the day is still in the early stages but Paul is coming to my place very early first of all to see how I do dovetails and then we're off to Pete's about 11.40. Ought to be a really good day.

04 June 2008

Black Holes

I started a couple of new knives the other night, one of which was for Paul Chapman, who gave me a rather nice lump of ebony. Turning the handle shape and fitting the ferule is quite easy and rather enjoyable...drilling the 8mm hole down the end is not. I had a go on both knives and managed to get the holes off-centre by about 1mm on each one, which isn't acceptable as they need to be concentric, or as near as dam it. I started to do them in the lathe which was a mistake as the driving prong kept on slipping so the blank didn't turn...not a lot of help. So then they were out of the lathe and into the drill press in a hastily knocked up little jig which made them even worse. The problem is that once the hole starts to go off centre, it's bloody nigh impossible to correct it again and if you do make the attempt, the thing only gets worse. Nothing else for it but to shut up 'shop and go inside for a glass of vino...
...but not before I'd run a couple of bits of gash ebony (is there such a thing?) through the LN dowel plate (what a very useful bit of kit) to make a couple of small 8mm dowels to plug up the holes and having glued them in with some epoxy, it only remains for me tonight to have another attempt with a much better designed jig and a decent 8mm lip and spur bit. Here's hoping that I don't make another bloody cock-up and the holes run true.

02 June 2008

Go West

Pete and I went down to the CHT Hand Tools event at West Dean last Saturday...what a great day, even the weather smiled on us, which makes a change! The venue was really excellent and the range and quality of exhibitors was outstanding. I particularly wanted to buttonhole Michael Huntley, the new editor of F&C, who expressed some concern in the last issue about using internet forums. Michael is clearly trying to shift the emphasis of the mag from the 'hard-core' professional user image and combine it with a more user-friendly hobbyist or amateur approach, one that would appeal more to those sorts of makers (including me) who have 'shops in the garden or work from a garage...trouble is he's between a 'rock and a hard place' as the bean counters at GMC want more of the old style mag. What I was attempting to point out to him was that by registering on UKW he would then be able to indicate to the membership just how he plans to shift the mag forward and in that way might just be able to gain a few converts who would then take out a subscription. He also wants to improve the layout of F&C to make it much more like Fine Woodworking, so that pieces are presented in individual 'byte sized chunks' so making it easier for the reader.
Mike also said that he commutes from Warminster to Lewes each day and as such passes through Salisbury...his route takes him about 10 minutes from my door so it looks like an impending visit to my little 'shop is on the cards from the editor, can't be bad as they say.
I took along a bit of the 'Wood from Hell' fully expecting it to be untamable.
Wrong. The new LN demonstrator sorted it with a LA jack, very tight mouth and an EP of 62deg, so I think that I'll change the blade EP on my Veritas smoother and keep it for those gnarly bits of stuff that a BU plane throws it's hands up at! Suffice to say I was suitably impressed.
I also saw some rather nice Shapton ceramic stones...one was a grit of 30K, trouble was the price was £194 which was a little more that I would have been prepared to pay.
Also great to see Chris Knight and have a long chat about motorcycling, who passed on lots of good tips to my daughter Megs who's a bit of a rock-biker chickbabe!
Fantastic day out, roll on Westonbirt.