27 November 2008

The Parcel of Loveliness...

As this is the 100th Blokepost, it's appropriate that it ought to be a memorable one...and then some. A very grubby UPS delivery note was on my doormat last night saying that a parcel had been left with a neighbour, so with a rising sense of delicious anticipation I collected it from the said address and transported it very carefully home (why, I don't know, 'cos it had just travelled about 3000 miles from Ottawa) After ripping open the box, nestled amongst all the packing, there were three smaller ones, two of which contained the new block planes from Veritas and the third the equally spanky dovetail saw.
The new DX60 is a very pretty and superbly designed plane. It's far better than the LN 60.5 that I'm currently using, so that one may be kicked into touch, or at least offered for sale at some point. The particular things I found impressive were the way the adjustable shoe for the mouth is completely enclosed and that there is a cunning little stop to prevent it from slamming into the blade as the mouth is closed up. The LN by comparison (it uses the Stanley system) is clunky, awkward and quite difficult to set. The adjuster is also of the standard Veritas pattern, using a Norris inspired system...this sort of thing is found on all their planes, and being a Norris fan...I like!
Then of course, there's the design style. Its just eyewateringly, gobsmackingly pretty!! Everything that applies to the DX60 can be said about it's sibling, the NX60...except that the lights need to be dimmed and dark glasses worn 'cos when you take it out of its black velvet drawstring bag there's a very real risk of being blinded by the glare. It's seriously shiny!!...the thing is actually sitting in all it's shining sparkliness in front of me at work as I type on the 'puter (sad git that I am)
The new dovetail saw is growing on me. Like lots of others, I didn't initially like it when I saw pics of it on the Interweb, but you know...it grows on you. Now that I've had a chance to examine one at close quarters and more importantly, to pick it up, it's actually more comfortable to hold than my current LN d/t saw. I'm going to keep both and do a full 'shop test in due course as Michael Huntley wants me to review it for next months F&C and then later to do a comparison test against the LN after six months or so...it's going to be an interesting time in the 'shop.

24 November 2008


So here's a thing. I'm beavering away this last weekend in the 'shop, preparing timber for Steve Allford's course and making a rather large frame for a map of the world, again for the same person at work as the other few finished recently. Sunday afternoon arrived and I had a couple of hours to spare so I thought I'd make a start on this small project to hold some mugs. It'll also have a curved front drawer, which I'm rather looking forward to, as I've never done one of those before. All the timber had been put through the p/t, the edges and ends had been shot in and the surfaces skimmed with the LV LA jack...perfect, everything looking hunky-doodly. I selected the two uprights and proceeded to mark out the dovetails top and bottom, then I moved on to sorting out where the two central horizontal dividers would go...so far so good. Marked out one (the top of the drawer) then measured 120mm for the next shelf...but hang on just a moment, this was only leaving me about 60mm for the next mug and I needed 120mm! Time to check the drawing.
The dimensions for the individual sections were as follows: 15 (thickness of wood) +75 (drawer height) + 15 (first horizontal shelf) + 120 (space for mug) + 15 (thickness of shelf) + 120 (space for mug) + 15 (thickness of wood) You don't need to be a maths graduate at Edinburgh to add up these numbers, which if you've hit all the right buttons, ought to come to 375mm...so why the bloody hell did I mark on the drawing that the total height was 236mm, which is what I cut both pieces to?
Bugger and thrice bugger!!
Staying remarkably calm and resisting the temptation to hurl everything in the 'shop through the window I reviewed my options. Fortunately, Waka who kindly donated the timber in the first place, is coming up to Wilton in a couple of weeks (along with some other notorieties from UKW) so he's going to bring me another couple of lumps of timber...here's hoping I don't do the same bloody stupid thing again. As is often said in woody circles of note, measure twice, cut once...'cept I didn't!

22 November 2008

The Better Picture

Michael Huntley, the ed of F&C came round yesterday to take a few extra pics of the Elm Cabinet II. I'd taken plenty but had managed to get some reflections in the door glass and one or two shots were out of focus, so not quite good enough for publication. After a brew, Michael set up all the gear in the lounge so it soon resembled a studio, cables and lights everywhere. He'd brought with him a set of professional studio lights which he arrayed around the cabinet to take the shots..and I was most impressed! Michael explained that the most important thing is to get plenty of light on the subject and then shoot on the 'manual' setting at f20 and 1/160th or even 1/250th shutter speed rather than the 'auto' that I'd been using to date. However, the rather daunting prospect of spending nearly £300 on lighting gear didn't fill me with much joy until he explained that a much cheaper way of obtaining a good light source was to use 'site lights'...the only thing necessary to do is to alter the 'white balance' on the camera. This morning then, I had a look at the Axminster site and they had them on special offer (25% off) so now I've got four coming in the post which ought to arrive later on this week.

After some nattering on the Interweb today, I'm now expecting an ever bigger parcel from the New World...can't wait!

20 November 2008

The Bigger Picture

I handed over the three pictures I did a few days ago and happily the recipient (more correctly his wife) was delighted so that now I've got a really big map of the world to frame as well...probably the biggest thing that I've ever cut mitres for. Difficult to know what to use for timber for this one, but somewhere in the darkest recess of the 'shop I think I've got some suitable mahogany which could be sliced up, I'll have to have a delve tonight.

I also bought another mangled gouge from PFT last week which I intend to turn into a slightly smaller scribing gouge for the forthcoming table project. I'll also need a new handle and I reckon that's a job for some Ebony or African Blackwood. Now that I've got the internal grinding problem sorted out (the Proxxon is ideal for this sort of job) it'll compliment the existing gouge that Martin let me have a while back.

Whilst we're on the subject, I see from pics on the Interweb that LN have one or twelve new goodies in the pipeline, one of which is a fishtail gouge. I made one (or rather converted a woody rebate plane blade) a while back and made an octagonal handle which is OKish, but the blade's a tad short, so I guess the real thing would probably perform better...besides which, it'll sit well with all the other LN chisels in the rack, not that I'm a collector of any sort you understand...

Meanwhile, I'm waiting with baited breath for a heavy package to arrive from the New World...will say no more.

16 November 2008

Jockfrock...'au naturel'

I've had a really good week, not so much from a woodworking point of view, but I did something that I've wanted to do for ages...become a qualified First Aider. There was a need in my branch at work for an 'appointed person' (the correct name, I'm led to believe) so my boss nominated me for the Red Cross four day course held in town. It turned out to be very interesting and I learnt a huge amount about all things medical and to top it all, I've got a fabric and enamelled badge as well as a credit card thingie to put in my wallet...all good stuff.
I've made a couple of my marking knives in the last couple of days, both for UKWorkshop members, so that's a useful bit of the folding just before Christmas. Fingers crossed, there may be someone else after one as well, so I'll have to wait and see what develops. We're also having a 'Secret Santa' event on UKW this year and I've managed to make a reasonble gift which will need to be posted off round about the begining of December.

So what's with the bloke in the skirt, I hear you ask? Gareth, number 1 son, who seems to be far more comfortable with the kilt than the bloke next to him, who seems to be apprehensively awaiting the imminent delivery of a cricket ball where it's not needed!

Just a passing thought...I wonder if Gareth is wearing it 'au naturel'?

09 November 2008

New Teeth for 'Big Woodie'

What a great weekend in the 'shop, I seemed to have got a huge amount of stuff done. The main thing on Saturday was to start the machining on the cherry for the table, so I managed to shove all the stuff through the p/t so that it was pretty much to size. I'm going to leave it for another few weeks to condition a bit more before the final sizing. Trouble was that the blades on the planer were as blunt as a blunt thing so it was a real effort to shove the stuff through...so this morning they had a long overdue sharpening on the Tormek. The difference was fantastic so it's a New Year resolution (made well in advance) that I must remember to sharpen the planer blades on a regular basis.
So what's with the pic? When I made 'Big Woodie' back in the summer, I must have altered the temper on the original blade (when I ground it from 50 to 44mm) so that it was pretty abysmal and tended to loose the edge after about three minutes...no good at all. I asked Philly if I could have a lump of 6mm tool steel and he let me have a decent bit at Wesonbirt. Well this weekend I prepared it to size (you can see from the pic that Phill has roughly ground the bevel) so that all it needs now is to be hardened and tempered (again, Phill will do that for me as I don't have a big enough gas torch for the job) an then BW will be up and running.
I also did a bit of saw sharpening as well, something I haven't done for a good few years. Martin let me have a couple of old saws to play around with (one was a decent back saw and the other was a very nice cross-cut) I did a reasonable job on the tenon saw, not fantastic, but fair, suffice I think to say, that it's a lot better now than when Maritn let me have it a while ago. The cross-cut has been stripped down and all (or most of) the rust has been cleaned off the blade, the handle has been stripped of all the original gloopy varnish and is now drying, even as I type, in the airing cupboard. It just remains to be set, sharpened and re-assembled and then I reckon it'll look, and perform, pretty well...time will tell.
I also decided to make another small project while I'm waiting for the cherry to condition. When Pete and I went to see Waka, he let me have some offcuts of American Oak and I'm going to make a small display unit for some comical mugs (of which more later) but the thing which is quite interesting is that I'm going to make a curved drawer in this little unit...something I've never done before but which I've always wanted to have a go at. As I said in an earlier entry, flat and square is relatively easy...bringing a little bit of curvature into your work makes life a whole lot more interesting, and ultimately a lot harder, but that's life, init?

07 November 2008

Banana Wood

It being Friday today, it therefore follows that yesterday was Thursday, in which case I was out in the 'shop last night doing a spot of weekly cleaning. Some can work in a mucky 'shop...I can't I'm afraid. It's my view that tidy surroundings promote efficient and better quality work, lots of others disagree, but that's the way I do things.
So, after I'd finished with the brush and broom I decided to have a quick peek at the cherry. Much to my surprise, it hasn't moved at all so I guess it was pretty dry to start with. Tell a small lie, there's one of the rails that's a bit banana shaped (stresses released in the wood after conversion) but nothing drastic, certainly nothing that can't be removed with a bit of judicious work with the LV jack, so I'm thinking that I'll make a start on the frames this weekend and push everything through the planer/thicknesser.
I've just been paid a small amount for the picture frames that I did a few weeks ago so I intend very shortly to order one or two bits and pieces from Axminster. Several years ago I had a Dremel drill and sold it as I didn't think I would have a use for it in a cabinet shop...stupid boy! I need to go and buy another one, but this time I'll get a Proxxon as after examining one at PFT the other day, they're far better made and come with a chuck instead of a collet system. There are several things that immediately spring to mind that it could be used on...grinding the bevel on a scribing gouge, polishing Blokeblades (as in marking knives) and sorting out the last little bit on my Secret Santa gift.
As to what that is, you'll just have to wait and see...

03 November 2008


Had a really great day in the workshop yesterday as I got the design finalised for the new project and all the rods drawn full size. I was a little bit disappointed to find that I didn't have enough burr elm for the panels but I forgot that Martin let me have a very nice small piece of Burr Myrtle (Australian timber) and there was just enough of it to slice up and make the veneers for the panels. Once the drawings were done, I hoicked up the board of cherry onto the bench and proceeded to demolish it with my hand held c/s so that after half an hour all I had was about 20 rough sawn bits of timber and a lot of sawdust on the floor. It's now in stick under the bench for a month or so doing what wood will do...
We're having a 'Secret Santa' on UKWorkshop this Christmas so I spent the afternoon just doing a bit more on my gift, which has turned out quite well and just needs a bit more work to finish it. I was in town on Saturday and went into PFT, just for the mandatory nose round, you understand and I spotted another pair of Record sash cramps...this is the second pair I've had from them in a week and at £25 the pair, it's a bit of a steal. All they needed was a good going over with some coarse sandpaper to remove the rust and crud from the bar, a light smear of oil on the thread and they're good for another 20 years. I had several sets of cramp heads collected over the years but I've always found them awkward and cumbersome to use so I've decided to replace them (A good pal on UKW uses them and has bought them for a moderate contribution to the cause) so everything considered, an excellent weekend.