31 December 2008

The New Year

The last post of 2008... a quick one just to wish everyone a Happy and prosperous New Year.

Happy New Year - Rob

29 December 2008

The Lady Lives

The festivities of the last couple of days have come and gone so now it's the inevitable slow haul 'twixt Christmas and the New Year, always a bit of an effort. In many ways, though it's pleasant to get back to a bit of normality with grub 'ordinaire' (or just using up the leftovers) and a winding down of the excesses of the Christmas period...still got a 15 yo bottle of Dalwhinnie to get through yet, courtesy of my daughter.
I'm delighted to report though that the Christmas Fairy survived the rampant attentions of the old bloke in the red suite during the night of Christmas Eve and was there in all her shining shimeriness on the top of the tree Christmas morning with not a dishevelled strand of tinsel out of place!
As I mentioned earlier, we had a Secret Santa event on UKWorkshop this year which has proved to be very popular. SWIMBO had wrapped up my present very smartly and stuck it under the tree with all the rest...even my furtive attempts at 'feelies' (doesn't everyone?) failed miserably to work out exactly what was inside the package. It didn't help 'cos the parcel was a padded envelope and when it was eventually opened it was stuffed full of shavings, so to the person who made my gift (should you be one of the readers of this inane misive)...a curse on you, may your plane blades remain forever blunt!...t'were a cruel, mean and heartless trick to deprive the 'Bloke' of just the merest, tiniest, inkling of the delights inside. I could feel though that there was something that sort of moved when it was squiggled around in the packaging but I didn't have a scoobies as to what it might contain...imagine my surprise and delight when all was revealed, a concoction in ebony and brass, which turned out to be a centre finder (after a bit of investigative work to try and fathom out what it was) My thanks then, to the kind soul who must have laboured long and hard (or at least cracked the whip over the elves) to make my gift... very much appreciated.

24 December 2008

That time of year...

Here we are again, it's that time of year...Christmas Eve. The last bits of shopping have been done, shelves are buckling in the larder, the tree is up in the lounge and has been decorated (including the Christmas Fairy) with presents under and there's ice in the freezer for the 'g and t's' (essential accompaniment for cooking the goose) on Christmas Day. The kid's have got their stockings organised for the small bits and pieces that Father Christmas always leaves (even though the chimney's been blocked up now, how does he still do that?) and there's a bottle of Tattinger in the fridge for Christmas morning...that's after we come back from our walk around the cathedral in town.
I've tried in some small way over the last year to make the Blokeblog an interesting and entertaining read... I hope that wherever you are on this small planet of ours you've found some amusement from these workshop witterings.
As a small crippled boy said a long time ago "God bless us, every one"...Merry Christmas - Rob

21 December 2008

Thank God for A2

Now don't get me wrong, I'm enormously grateful for any of my pals on UKWorkshop that contribute timber or tools to the cause (and I hope in some small way that I can reciprocate) and such was the case with my very good friend Waka who generously let me have one or two off-cuts of timber that would have otherwise been disposed off, or at best continue to take up valuable space in his 'shop. This is how I came to be the owner then, of a small parcel of kiln dried American White Oak, which I have to say is one of the most difficult timbers that I've had the misfortune to try and work with. Maybe it's the kilning process, but it seems to consist of layers of bullet hard, dense timber alternating with softer mushier stuff...and all of it has this 'carroty' feel to it under the edge which makes it quite unpleasant to use, 'specially if your trying to chop anything with a chisel as in dovetails pins and sockets. Contrast that with a decent English Oak that's been properly air-dried...it feels like you're cutting a very hard cheese, the tool just seems to slice effortlessly through the timber. Anyway, this little project is coming along reasonably well now in spite of the timber, it's just a case now of cleaning up the inside faces, finishing and then the big glue up, which'll be fun!
All I can say is thank God that all my chisels are LN with A2 steel!

19 December 2008

Demise of the Christmas Fairy

So much for my planing skills! How do you plane down a few lumps of end and long grain stuck together? I had a go last night and found it almost bloody impossible to hold the things on the bench top, 'specially when it needs to be tapered so that each piece of the laminate is about 1mm thick. I got fed up with it in the end and shoved them all though the bandsaw...
I think I'll be continuing with my little unit in American Oak over the weekend. Next job will be to mark out and cut the mortises for the twin stubb tenons on the two shelves, which'll be interesting as I haven't done any of those for a few years now.
On a different note, we're having a 'Secret Santa' event on UKWorkshop and I picked up my package from the Post Office the other day. On the back of the parcel was a salutary warning that should it be opened prior to the 'Big Day' it would result in the immediate execution of seven Christmas Elves as a reprisal...which then begs the question, 'Who is this Father Christmas guy anyway and what sort of clout does he have?' I'm thinking here that if seven go up against the wall (worry not, it ain't going to happen, 'cos the parcel has been entrusted to SWIMBO's tender care) will the old bloke in the red suit have enough elfpower to fulfill all the Christmas orders at the North Pole? It sure is a puzzle, but at least with all the redundancies about at the moment he shouldn't have too much bother in recruiting some extra labour!
But the biggest conundrum of all though, is what's going to happen to the Christmas fairy? If he's willing to top seven of his most dedicated followers, there's no telling what he'd do to her. Bit of rape and pillage?...who knows, don't really bare thinking about. Only time will tell, 'cos if she's still there on the top of my tree on Christmas morning I'll know that all is good in the world.
If you know what might have happened to her had I opened my parcel...answers on a postcard!

18 December 2008

Gunfire and the Marie Celeste

I managed to get out into the 'shop for a bit last night to do a bit on these hygrometers I'm making and got three glued up and into the AirPress bag. Pete advised me to use epoxy for the glue up as if PVA is used the water in stuff will make the cross-grain pieces bend too much. I also got some of the backing boards lipped ready for a bit of veneering later on. I'm not quite sure how many of these things are going to turn out well so I'll probably keep the best one.
I'm sorting this entry out at work today and being the festive season we've had a few mince pies (courtesy of the OC) and coffee in the Squadron office, a bottle of Bell's being contributed by the Sergeant Major so those that aren't driving have a couple of tots in their coffee... and very pleasant too. It's a standown for the Squadron from lunch time today so the place is going to be a bit like the Marie Celeste next week. Good news is that I won the Squadron monthly draw for the third time (the notorious and infamous Jimmy 100) much to my delight. The OC sounded off even more than usual this month as she drew the winning numbers and has never won a bean...more power to your elbow is what I say!

15 December 2008

Bendy Wood

After last weeks Winterwonder Bash, (in which Waka let me have another bit of American Oak) I finally redeemed myself and managed to get the two sides of this little project I'm doing prepared to the right size. I even managed to get the dovetails cut top and bottom without making an utter bloody cock up of it...if you recollect from an earlier posting, I had a slight difficulty in adding up a series of measurements. 'Nuff said. I decided to mark out and cut a few Cosmanesque dovetails...easy enough to do but quite tricky to clean out the bottom of the pins, so time will tell when the complete joint comes together.
Pete came round on Saturday afternoon to return a book I'd lent him and amongst other things we nattered about was the construction of his hygrometer that I'd had a look at the previous weekend, so yesterday afternoon I decided to crack on and make a start on a couple. In essence what I did was to prepare a few blanks of English Cherry end grain sections, tape them together and at some point they'll be epoxied to the backing timber and then shaped.
Disappointingly, the 'shop suffered a small leak due to the very high winds and heavy rain over the weekend...nothing drastic that 10 minutes with a sealant gun won't cure, but annoying none the less. I guess I'll have to get a tarp over the suspect bit this coming weekend just to ensure that there's no more ingress of the wet stuff.

12 December 2008

Kari's pics

As promised, a coupla pics of my scratch stock. My pal Pete (who's a fantastic engineer) saw the Garrett Hack version at West Dean and thought it could be improved on. The beauty of Hack's idea is that it's simple...no more than a saw cut and the thread can even be tapped directly into the wood ('specially if something like ebony is being used) The disadvantage is that as soon as the cutter goes further away from the body, it starts to flex which isn't good. What Pete's done is to take the design of a traditionally shaped stock, machine it out of solid brass and then add an adjustable fence to it so that it's rock solid even when the cutter is used, say, 40mm away from the edge. Pete let me have a high speed steel cutter for it (so it needs to be ground to shape) but it works just as well with a cutter that could be made from something like an old cabinet scraper or saw blade. I haven't used it in earnest yet but I've got a small project coming up where it might be useful.

08 December 2008

Winterwonder Bash

Well, the weekend has come and gone so it's time to draw breath. Wow!!.. what a day on Saturday. We had a Winterwonder Bash at Wilton and had no less than a veritable 'shopful of the great and the good from UKWorkshop. The likes of Waka, Paul Chapman, Paul (Chisel), Pete, Martin, Rod (Harbo) and Simon (Heath Robinson) all turned up, the only one who couldn't make it was Philly. The dining table was groaning with so much shiny metal it fair made your eyes hurt...S&S, Norris, Lei-Neilson, Veritas, Holtey, Festool, Grammercy and Clifton were all represented. In fact Rod even brought along a Japanese plane that I didn't have a chance to play with.
Simon had received a bit of stick from one or two naysayers on the forum about a new Draper router that he'd just bought and wanted some reassurances that it was 'kosher.' I have to say that once it'd been set up and I'd given it test drive I was impressed, a very pleasant bit of kit.
Lot's of folk tried out the new Veritas d/t saw and gave it a positive 'thumbs up' but there were some issues with the new Beading Tool that I need to look at further. Paul Chapman gave us a useful demo on his Festool Domino that he'd bought from Dom on the 'dark side'...a very good piece of equipment but difficult to justify the full cost of it unless used constantly in a professional 'shop. Waka had also brought along his rather up-market ramped shooting board which I found quite interesting to use as it had one or two useful features...also not forgetting Pete's very natty hygrometer (need to make one of those) Martin and Paul also gave me loads of useful info on using a camera. Previously, I'd just used the Nikon D60 as a 'point and shoot' but when used on Manual, it's clear that it becomes a lot more versatile as it then does what you want it to do, rather than the other way round.
While we were all busy nattering in the 'shop, SWIMBO had prepared a really good feast for us all and to crown it, Pam (Pete's wife) had done a couple of scrumptious puds...lime cheesecake and a pavlova, stuffed with raspberry's and fresh cream. A fabulous day enjoyed by all.

On a different note entirely, I had a reply back this morning from Tom Lie-Nielson in the US of A. Guess who's going to be reviewing LN tools in F&C as well?...no prizes for the right answer!

05 December 2008

Lime Cheesecake

After a lot of organization on the Ethernet, the big day is here tomorrow...the Winter Bash. Loads woodworky nutters of are going to descend on my very 'umble 'shop with a vengeance for some serious woody talk. No doubt there'll be one or twelve shiny toys to play around with, 'specially if Waka brings some of this S&S planes. Paul Chapman's bringing one or two bits and I know that Rod has also got one or two surprises to unveil... then of course there's my recent stuff from across the 'big wet' which'll have an airing on the 'morrow.
What's to be done then? Well, tonight I'll need to have a honing session in the 'shop as some of my stuff needs to have a quick re-sharpen (can't have blunt blades for all to see!) but primarily I'll need to get down to Tescos for a load of grub for the day and following week. Good news is that Pam Newton is providing the pud...lime cheesecake, which I know from past experience is not to be missed.

02 December 2008

The Parcel of Lovliness...part deux

I was expecting another little shiny object in the plane package last week and was slightly disappointed to find that it t'weren't there... ho-hum I thought, RL's forgotten to send it, never mind. About 5.30 last night, just as I was getting the tea on, there was a hammering on the front door and there stood my neighbour with yet another parcel from Canada, inside which was the other tool I'd been expecting...so a big 'thumbs up' to Rob Lee and Veritas. I've spoken to the ed. at F&C and he wants me to do the review in the New Year, but first I've got to find out what it does and more importantly, how to use it.

01 December 2008

Smooooth operation.

Steve Allford came down to Wilton this weekend for a training course. He wanted to have a look at the way to make a decent drawer, which involves making a through and lapped dovetail...'cept that there's a lot more to it that that!
I got him started on Saturday morning by making a simple through joint (I have to say that he did that very accurately) and in the afternoon he did a lapped dovetail. The timber he was using was some American red oak that Chisel had given me a while ago and it proved to be ideal for this sort of exercise. The front of the lapped joint was made from a oddment of Brazilian mahogany.
A couple of years ago I'd made an old unit with a couple of small drawers (for holding pens etc in the old computer room) and it was shortly destined for the tip, but then I had a moderate brainwave (such occurrences are getting rarer) I thought that Steve might be able to completely remake one of the drawers on Sunday, which is what he did. Furthermore, he was able to make it a 'piston' fit in the carcass and was surprised that a small handful of wispy shavings was the difference between a binding drawer and one that was a dead smooth fit, so much so that he was able to push the drawer in using just one finger on a lower corner. If you don't believe me, try it!.. a well made and fitted drawer will go in smoothly (if its 3/4 out) by pushing on one corner with finger...if it binds and sticks, it's a sloppy fit.
I gave Steve enough timber for him to make the second drawer at home in 'slow time' so that he ought to be able to end up with useful little desk unit which will no doubt end up in one of the children's rooms. He'd recently also just completed a dovetail saw kit and was eager to give it it's first outing in my 'shop. It's a very pleasant Grammercy saw for which Steve had made an ebony handle...and a cracking little thing it was too.
Inevitably, mistakes were made which I won't dwell on, but at the end of the weekend Steve knew what they were and had learned how not to repeat them in any future projects that needed a top quality, fitted drawer. Lesson for me there, I fancy...
The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed one or two new shiny tools...luvly jubbly!