30 October 2008


Got a pretty quiet day here in the office so I've been scribbling out some detailed ideas for the next project. As I said earlier on, we picked up a rather attractive marble top in France made from fossils and as SWIMBO is well into here fossils it made it's way home in the Landy without mishap. I'm currently I pondering about having two pairs of frames arranged as a cross and linking each pair will be a solid rail at each short end, about 200mm wide or so. Inset into the rail will be some burr elm with an ebony line around the outside of the panel, so the current train of thought is that it could look quite good as it'll incorperate lots of 'birds mouth' tenons and shaping with rasps on the frames. What I need to do over the next couple of days is to get the drawing gear out and start to draft things up full size. The critical thing is to try and get the proportions of the piece as pleasing as possible, trying to incorperate the Golden Ratio (if I can) for the burr elm panels, but not only that, the spaces each side of the panels have got to look right. It's a tricky business and one which'll mean a lot of 'rubbing out' till it looks spot on. The main timber will be in English Cherry as I got a lovely board from Yandles a couple of weeks ago. Once the design has been finalised the timber can be chopped up into rough lumps and left to condition a bit more in the 'shop.

28 October 2008

Added Value

Steve Hamlin from UKWorkshop came down to stay for a course over the last weekend, which proved to be very successful. I was initially a bit worried that I hadn't prepared enough work for Steve to do and that the pace of the two days would be too slow...after all, it's a fair lump of money to part with and I wanted to ensure that I gave 'added value' In the end, I needn't have worried as everything and more, that I'd planned, got covered.

Steve has been doing woodwork for about five years and wanted to learn the basics of bench work. He'd attended a week long course with Bruce Luckhurst earlier and found it reasonably good (he was able to learn about sharpening on that one) but as there are loads of students attending, a one-on-one, intensive and personal course is almost impossible to achieve, which is where the sort of course I can offer has to be of benefit as the Woodbloke Mark I eyeball was never very far away!

Working in strange surroundings and with different tools to the ones you're used to is always going to be a mite difficult to start with and Steve was no exception. He was naturally a little 'hesitant' to start with but this rapidly disappeared when he got stuck in and started to 'flow' with the work...difficult to describe, but best thought of as getting into a rhythm.

I'd organised the meals throughout the two days so that we started off with a really good cooked breakfast, sandwich at lunch time and a couple of tea breaks during the day, with a substantial dinner in the evening, after which we retired to the lounge for some serious 'woody talk' and a few bevies.

I got Steve do do several small test exercises on the Saturday, one of which was planing up a rough sawn piece of American Oak. I insisted that this was planed to exact sizes (set with a gauge) and was straight, true and out of wind. The only planes that Steve used for this was my woodie jack and the Norris AI. Sunday was spent in making a panel in American Cherry and again the panel material was planed from a rough board. All the mortise and tenon joints were cut by hand but I did the grooving and rebating on the router table.

I think I can say with some certainty that Steve got a huge amount out of the weekend and was amazed at just what progress he'd made. He's got a couple of decent projects lined up at home so now he'll be able to crack on and put into practice what he learnt at Wilton...an excellent weekend for all concerned.

20 October 2008

Tormek and Timber

In preparation for next weekend, I stripped and reground all my plane blades on Sunday as it was about time they all got done anyway, so the Tormek was working overtime. I've come up with new sharpening routine in that all blades are ground at 23deg, with BD planes honed to 30 deg with a minute micro-bevel of 32deg which I do on the Spyderco 10000g ceramic stone. This gives a fantastic edge...in fact it's so sharpe it doesn't even feel as if it'll cut you, until the edge is tested on the end of one's finger. BU plane blades are treated in a similar way in that they're honed to 36deg with a micro-bevel of 38deg, giving an EP (effective pitch, a nice Charlesworthian expression) 0f 50deg.
After our visit to see Waka the other week, I've also reduced the mouth opening on my Norris A1 panel plane, which on the face of it, is quite hard to do...how do you reduce the mouth opening on an infill? Very simple, stick a small bit of veneer onto the bottom of the bed with some double sided tape. Purists might argue that the cutting angle of the plane has been reduced, but it's only a tiny amout and makes no practical difference. I still can't get over just how good the Veritas LA BU smoother is, it's far better than my old Record Calvert-Stevens and even that's been fitted with LN A2 blade.
I also had a look round in the off-cuts drawer for some bits and pieces of suitable timber. I've got a couple of decent bits of mahogany for chiseling and chopping mortices, both by hand and machine. I'm going to demonstrate how I cut mortises using the router so I also found another bit of stuff to use in conjunction with the mahogany...if you read this Paul (Chisel) it's the bit that got dropped on my foot...and it's still as hard and heavy! On Sunday I'm going to get Steve to make a small panel, fortunately there were some ideal bits of NA cherry in the drawer with a suitable piece for the panel that will be planed and shot in by hand.
Now that the picture frames are out of the way, the next job is the coffee table. My trusty bit of hardboard needs a fresh coat of white paint ready for the full size rod and once that's been done the English Cherry can be chopped into rough lumps to season a bit further. The design I'm considering at the moment is four frames cross-halved to form a 'X' shape and linking each frame will be wide rail, inlaid with a burr elm with an ebony line. It should be 'interesting' to do as there'll be a load of smoothing and shaping of the frames so it won't be straight forward by any means...
Now who do I know that makes a decent scratch stock?

16 October 2008


Having returned from Yandles a few days ago, I managed to pick up a really nice board of English Cherry about 43mm thick. There were several splits and cracks in it but I reckon there's more than enough to do both the coffee table and the plane restoration projects. There were some even thicker 75mm boards there but the bloody galling thing is that I can't convert them into useable sizes as my portable c/s and table saw will only cut to about 53mm. It's for this reason that I've decided to try and upgrade my workshop machinery over the next couple of years, starting with a much bigger bandsaw (at least a 10" depth of cut) so that these bigger lumps of timber can be processed. A bigger bandsaw will also enable me to cut wider veneers but to do that effectively, I need to plane one of the cut sides so I'll need a wider P/T and so it continues....
I finished reading Robert Ingham's book yesterday and am truly gobsmacked by the quality and sheer precision of his work. I'm not sure that I like all his designs, but no one could argue that the man don't know what he's talking about...outstanding. There are one or two of his pieces though that could be used as a basis for the coffee table frame but one of them might be a non-starter as I'd need a bandsaw with a bigger depth of cut than my current one...bugger! I'm can see that I'm really doing a quite excellent job of convincing myself to change my gear.
On the other hand, the maple picture frames turned out really well. I tried this time to get a finish straight from the plane (my Veritas BU smoother) with only a minimum of sanding using a very worn out bit of 320g paper and much to my surprise, it worked! I finished them with a few coats of blond shellac and wax and just need to get hold of some glass this weekend to finish them off.
Steve is coming down the weekend of the 25th and 26th Oct so I'm starting to get my head round what material is going to be needed in the 'shop for the practical work. I've already outlined to him the schedule for the two days and it's pretty actioned packed, so I'm really looking forward to that, ought to be a great weekend.

09 October 2008

Bubinga or Rosewood?

Me and SWIMBO are off down to Yandles this Sat to have a look at some timber for the new workshop project in the pipeline, that is the small coffee table in elm for the lounge. We got hold of a fossilised and highly polished octagonal, segmented slab of marble from Roussillion in the south of France which is going to make a really great little table, in the style of a Robert Ingham piece, inlaid with burr-elm with an ebony line...not sure what I've let myself in for here as it's going to be just a tad tricky to build. Elm's the timber of choice for this as it's going to go well with the other couple of cabinets in the lounge. As well as the elm (air dried if I can get it) I want to find a bit of something suitable for Martin's plane project which I promised I'd start soon. I'm not sure what to buy but quite fancy a small lump of bubinga but if they haven't got anything the right size I'll see if they can cut something down...on the other hand they've got lots of rosewood of various denominations and sizes...
The picture frames that I took on last week are coming on well. These have been made out of some hard maple and will be finished some time next week, I hope.
One of the lads from the UKWorkshop forum is coming down in a couple of weeks and I'm really looking forward to that weekend as I think it's going to be quite interesting. Hard work, I fancy, but it should be really excellent. I've sent off all the paperwork and am just waiting for a reply at the moment...I expect something will drop on the mat next week.
Michael Huntley has recieved the article for the elm 'Display Cabinet' and also has the little bit I did on the workshop, so they'll be a couple of bits in F&C penned by my own fair hand and as an additional bonus, all the pics will have been taken with our new Nikon D60 camera, so no more struggling with my little Panasonic (good though it is)
The only thing I'm really hacked off with though is that I missed a fantasic oppurinity to get hold of one of the new Veritas plough planes from Workshop Heaven at a give away price of £99, a saving of £68!

Bugger...need to be a bit quicker off the mark next time.

05 October 2008

Sauer and Steiner

What a day Pete and I had yesterday! Pete picked me up and we had a run down to Weymouth to see two of the 'Woodkateers' namely Martin and Waka, mainly in order to have a look at the new Sauer and Stiener planes that Waka collected at Westonbirt earlier on in the summer (so called) Pete had also made one of his very acceptable scratch stocks and was keen to deliver it but as it happens, Martin put cash on the table so there was another sale there as well...but that's a different story.
The planes are works of art when you have a really close look at them and are beautifully made and finished...and all entirely by hand as I think the only machine tool that Konrad uses is a pillar drill (if I'm not mistaken) The infill on this little lot is Brazillian Rosewood which is superb and has a wonderful grain figure. The mouth on each of the planes is only .002" so that a really fine shaving can be produced and what was particularly noticable is that the Norris type adjuster is very, very fine, far more so than on my own Norris A1 panel plane in the 'shop...impressive indeed.
We were planing some Indonesian Rosewood for the test and all the planes just sailed through it! Interestingly, I sharpened up Waka's LN LA jack to a 52deg effective pitch and compared one against the other and I was surprised that the LA jack (again with a very tight mouth) produced identical results to the S&S planes, so for an every day sort of bench plane, they don't represent very good value, but then I suppose, that's not the reason why anyone would buy them. What was also slightly dissapointing was to discover that the sole of one of the smoothers was convex directly in front of the mouth, by about 2 thou each side. As Pete pointed out, this may well have been caused by the shrinkage of the rosewood infill pulling the sole out of true. Not good.
Would I have one, or some? If money was'nt a consideration then probably the answer would be yes as they are truly wonderful things to use, but as there's loads of other stuff that I need in the 'shop, and have got far to many planes already I think I'll pass on ownership...