31 January 2009

Loaves and Fishes

I'm always very grateful for small favours that friends do for me and I hope I can reciprocate in some small measure later on, so it was with a pleasant sense of anticipation I opened a package that was waiting for me on the dining room table when I got in from work. Inside was the freshly tempered tool steel blade for Big Woodie that Philly had made (he actually supplied the blank at Westonbirt and I asked him then if he'd mind hardening and tempering it for me)
Now if you recollect from past witterings, we had a hugely entertaining Bash at Wilton at the beginning of December, when all the 'great and the good' from UKWorkshop descended on my place...all that is, except Philly. At the end of the proceedings I passed the blade, complete with an sae over to Waka (he of dubious tool collecting repute) and asked him to give it to Philly, which he duly did the following weekend.
Well, as you know, time passes. Glaciers melt, new mountain ranges are pushed up, recessions come and go...but alas, no sign of Big Woodie's new blade, until Thursday night that is. As I opened the package, the blade was wrapped up in brown paper and it was clear that Philly had done a cracking job on sorting it out. Also included was a genuine Phillyplanes letter which started...and I quote "Yes, miracles do happen!" Now generally I don't dip into the 'good book' these days (or at least I haven't since I was very small) but everyone's familiar with the tales of the miracles that Jesus performed throughout his life and I suppose that had he been around today, this would have ranked with the 'Loaves and Fishes'
I just call in the 'Miracle of the Blade'...

29 January 2009

The Pencil Box

I finished making the 'driver tonight complete with its own box and a mechanism to raise it. This little project, 'specially the box, was really a small test piece to just to see if the new jigs I made last weekend worked...quite pleased to say that they did. The box was very fiddly to make and as I said in an earlier post, there were all sorts of things that went wrong with it, but I managed to sort it out in the end. The material used is Pau Rosa for the 'driver itself, Brazillian Walnut for the box and all the other bits are in Rosewood, apart from the lid which is a bit of maple. All the timber though was sourced from the off cuts box under the bench. I'm counting this project as a sort of trial or test piece and intend to make a proper one later on without all the mistakes...so here's hoping I've learnt from this one.

28 January 2009

Round Tuit and the Following Wind

Some time ago now I got hold of a couple of Veritas spokeshaves and very pleasant they are too. For years I'd been using the standard Record offerings which are truly appalling...I even tried shimming the bed with veneers to reduce the gap a bit, with only limited success. As they were, you could quite easily drive a Challenger tank through the mouth opening and they were diabolical to use, so at the first opportunity, they were unceremoniously ditched and were replaced by the LV adjustable 'shaves with nice, chunky A2 steel blades. Having done a bit of work on the Grommit cabinet though, the blades are now in dire need of good hone. The problem I've found (and I don't think I'm alone here) with any of these sorts of tools, is blade honing, more specifically...holding them! It's long been a bit of a puzzle to me how you can hold a small bit of steel at a predetermined angle on the stone, so that there's none of the dreaded 'rounding over' of the bevel. I use a modified 'Eclipse' style guide (I can hone freehand...it's just much easier with a honing guide) and use the 'ruler trick' on the back. A while ago, a good pal lent me the Veritas small blade holder to try and this worked quite well, but being a bit parsimonious in these affairs (and not being a collector of honing guides...Paul) I haven't got a round tuit yet of purchasing one, (if you don't know what a round tuit is, all will be revealed shortly!
Last night then, I was having a delve (as you do) in my sharpening drawer and came across a forlorn and long neglected adjustable wooden holder, designed to hold my old Record 'shave blades for freehand sharpening. The cogs upstairs do take some time to start to move (it's an age thing) but it slowly dawned on me that this could be the solution to the problem...with a little bit of a cunning fettle it could be just the business to hold the blades and fit in the honing guide. I just need to finish it off tonight and give if a test, with any luck and a following wind, this little problem ought to be sorted out.

25 January 2009

A Clean Sweep

It's been one of those days, you know, the sort when things go OKish but not quite as good as you'd hoped...anyway that's what it's been like today. I'm making this small box for my new 'driver and progress today has been a bit slow, lots of seemingly quirky little things that add up cumulativly throughout the day so that by the end of it, you know you've had a crap session in the 'shop. Nothing that's gone absolutely astray, but I was doing things in not quite the 'right' way so that the result I wanted didn't happen. F'r'instance, yesterday I was doing a little bit of turning in rosewood...I had to repeat it three times before I got it right. I glued the box together as well and hoping to cut corners, I put it on a radiator in the house to speed things along and guess what...the mitres opened, so they had to be reglued with some epoxy and left overnight. Today I was making the sliding lid. Again, I had to do it three times before I got the bloody thing right. The base didn't go according to plan either. Because of the internal fitting on this box I'd forgotten to make the rebate for the base, so I had to modify a bearing cutter to sort it out, with the result that I'd finished up with a rebate only 3mm deep...fine you might say, but not when I'd veneered a 6mm bit of ply last night. Stuff it through the bandsaw to chop it down a bit?...wrong! 'Cos the blade needs replacing, it came out skewed, so that got chopped into little bits. Nothing for it then but to make up a new base, which I did from Rosewood and Mahogany veneers, 'cept the AirPress bad had a tiny leak (easy enough to fix with tape) so it didn't pull enough vacuum and the glue didn't take.
All in all, not the happiest of times in the 'shop this weekend, so things can only get better. One thing I know for absolute certain though and that's as the mess in 'shop gets worse, the standard of my work takes a nose dive...I can't seem to work well surrounded by crap, clutter and being knee deep in shavings, so I'll be out later on with the dustpan and brush.

23 January 2009

Mitre been better...maybe not.

I've finally completed the 'driver handle last night (at least the polishing) and it's come up very well indeed...the Pau Rosa takes a really good polish. It just needs a bit of wax over the top to be completely done and then the bit holder just needs to be pushed in.
I started to make the little box for it the other night (just from an offcut of Brazilian Walnut) and I approached the jointing with a little trepidation as I wasn't really expecting the mitres shot on the new jig to pull up. I marked everything out carefully, rough cut them on the bandsaw and then shot them in. The box is fairly small (as you'd expect for a 'driver) so I couldn't use my picture frame cramp to pull the sides together... I had to resort to the time honoured, old fashioned way and use ply corner blocks and a tourniquet (essential here to use a cord that don't stretch...so nylon is a big 'no') Gobsmacked is not too strong a phrase to describe the way that they'd pulled up absolutely spot on which was really quite amazing! The joint is so simple to do now that I reckon I may well do a few more boxes later on. I've got to find a bit of ebony to make the cunning trunnion arrangment to hold the 'driver, then after that the next job is to clean up the inside, finish and glue, after which it has to go into the new Spline Jig for a couple of inserts routed in each corner. The lid by the way is going to be the rather traditional sliding 'pencil box' type in either English Cherry or Maple...again all sourced from the offcuts box under the bench (well...you can't throw 'em away can you?) and I had a bit of a problem trying to decide how to make a very small (3mm) groove around the inside. Then I remembered a pal had made me just the tool to do the job...

21 January 2009

Too good for sawdust...

Having had a severe bit of criticism from Philly (no pics so it didn't happen etc) herewith a pic of the handle in question and I think you have to agree...it is pretty and it is too small for a 'driver, so far too good to make into sawdust. However, last night I spun up it's replacement in Pau Rosa (Brazillian Tulipwood) which has turned out quite well...and it's not had any finish on it yet! I intend to put this into a small box with a cunning arrangement of trunnions and levers to raise it...it'll also give me a chance to use the new jigs I made the other day (the long mitre jig and the spline jig MkII)

20 January 2009

To bandsaw or no?

Don't you just hate destroying something you made? At a loose end last night, I went out to the 'shop to potter about for a bit and then I remembered I'd bought a magnetic bit holder so I decided to sort out a handle for it to turn it into a screwdriver. A couple of years ago I made a small octagonal chisel handle (about 25mm across flats) in ebony that was being used for something else, so I thought that this would be suitable. I hoicked out the old blade, drilled it out to about 6mm and pushed in the bit holder...everything fine, so I took it indoors at 9 o'clock and sat polishing it all evening with a duster whilst watching a film on the box at 9 o'clock (...don't say anything, I know I'm a sad git!)
But then the niggles gradually started in what's laughingly called the 'grey matter'...was the handle just the teeniest bit too small for a 'driver? I didn't do anything, just kept on polishing and I thought I'd sleep on it, no point in being hasty is there? Come this morning, the momentous decision had been made...it was too small! So it was out to the 'shop with the intention of sawing through the handle on the bandsaw (which is what I normally do with all my cock-ups) ...but do you know what? It was so pretty, I couldn't bring myself to do it, so I just knocked out the holder and am now left with a spare ebony handle with a 6mm hole down the middle. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but I 'spect it'll eventually find a home in the 'shop again for another tool, not that I'm a collector of such items you understand...

18 January 2009

Heeeeelp...it's the wrong trousers Grommit!!!

I've finally finished the 'fun' project in American White Oak and I'm not over excited to see the last of it, though I'm grateful to Waka for donating the offcuts to the cause. I reckon this is the first and last job I'll do in this stuff, in future I'll stick to English or Continental air dried oak. It's been quite interesting to do though, mainly 'cos of the curved drawer which was the main purpose of the exercise, but it also provided an amusing home for the Grommit mugs that we'd collected a few years ago.
I went round to see Pete yesterday, Martin was there as well and he let me have on a long loan a rather tasty Record compass plane...just needed a bit of blade honing and I think it'll be quite good. I've told him that I'll buy it when funding permits, which might be a while...or at least 'til some more finances come through from F&C. Pete also loaned me his shooter with the long mitre attachment and as today was a bit slack in the 'shop I thought I'd have a go at making something similar to fit onto my one. I turned out to be a bit trickier than I thought, 'specially to get everything square, though there's a cunning adjustment in it so that the fence can be set at a dead 90deg. Idiot that I am, I used an oddment of 18mm marine ply for the two bits at 45deg and I should have known that this stuff will decimate a plane blade, which it proceeded to do with alarming rapidity on my LN No9 Iron Mitre shoot! Tonight then, it was back out to the 'shop to get the dings ground out on the Tormek. In case anyone hasn't seen it before, the toggle clamp holds the attachments firmly onto the shoot so they don't move when the plane's on the return stroke.
The little unit has been received quite well by those that have seen it...SWIMBO's coffee table with the fossil top is the next thing on the agenda, so that'll be underway some time soon.

16 January 2009

Ethereal...maybe not

Cleaning up this American White Oak stuff ain't easy you know. I was in the 'shop last night doing a bit on my 'fun' project and I'd got round to cleaning up the outside. I set the V-BUS to take off the featheriest, most ethereal wispy shavings imaginable but there was still a small amount of tear out in one or two places. Fortunately I'd got one of the Veritas No80 scraper planes and decided to go over it the outside with that, the first time I'd used it properly on a job...very impressive, all the little annoying little bits of torn grain were removed. Just for 'belt and braces' I went over the outside again with the Mirka sanding pad and that's also equally impressive. All the sanding dust just gets whooshed up the pipe into the 'shop vac so it doesn't actually appear if the material's cutting the timber...it is though! Little bit of detail sanding along the edges and the job's all done, on then with the first coat of Osmo-PolyX.
Is a job ever perfect though? This one certainly wasn't, there's plenty of goofs that I ought not to have made...dovetails that were too tight, stub tenons that were slightly out etc. However, that's not the point of this exercise, what I actually wanted to do was to make a drawer with a curved front and that part of the project went very well. The difficult part of it was making the front (slight cock-up in making the template) and one or two hitches with the lapped dovetails, but apart from that, the making and fitting went really well. I just need to put on the second coat of Osmo tonight, an application of Teak Wax on the 'morrow and it'll be finished.

14 January 2009

Sky hooks and David Bailey

I managed to get out to the 'shop last night and make the other half of the joints for the drawer...so far, everything's gone according to plan. It went together quite well and there were'nt too many mishaps in cutting the pins, so tonight I plan to fit the drawer to the carcase, which is always interesting. For several days, I'd been puzzling over how to make the groove for the drawer bottom, especialy in the front...just how do you put a thin 3mm groove in a concave surface, a router is no good, nor is a plough plane? Fortunatly, I have the ideal little tool for the job...Pete's scratch stock. I ground up a bit of HSS cutter to the right profile and it went through the oak like a knife through the proverbial, really excellent.
On a different tack altogether, I've been trying to improve the quality of my pics and not being a photogrophizer, it's a bit of a 'mare at the moment, but I reckon I'm getting there slowly. I now shoot on 'manual' and have been advised by Michael Huntley that f16 or better is a desirable aperture setting and as the camera is used on a tripod with a 10s delayed release, the shutter speed can come down to compensate...he sometimes goes down to 1/10th second, so I'll have to have a little play around. What's made a dramatic improvement is the halogen site lights that I bought recently. They throw out a lot of illumination (I bought four) and just need the 'white balance' setting on the camera altered to compensate for the type of bulb...all very confusing! The thing I really need to get hold of next is a long roll (2.72x15m) of photographic background paper. The idea with this is that it's hung from the 'shop roof and then rolled down onto the floor or working surface, the object being photographed is then placed inside so that there appears to be no transition 'twixt the vertical and horizontal...clever eh? I've already spoken to Michael and he'll get back to me with the sort of stuff that's best, I think he recommended a pale grey colour, so I'll have to wait and see.

11 January 2009

Learing Curve

At last the temperature seems to be lifting a little bit and we've had a decent enough sort of day for almost the middle of January, so I decided to have a session outside and very pleasant it was too, so much so that by the COP the thermometer (which I had thought was broken as it was stuck on zero) had climbed to about the mid forties! I've got to the most interesting part of my little 'fun project' which is the curved drawer, a pic of which is shown. Without question the most difficult and awkward bit is actually making the curved front...this involved bearing cutting with the router, a bit of spokeshave work followed by some serious scraping and sanding to profile...oh for the delights of a compass plane! Then it had to be fitted to the opening, another tricky bit of work as it's bloody difficult to get the tapered angle correct on the end grain where it fits...I think I've got it right but I'm going to have to be very careful fitting the lapped dovetails at the front 'cos I haven't got a lot of surplus timber to play with, a few very fine shavings with the LA smoother at most. If I fit them just the tiniest bit too deep, the drawer will fit perfectly, but the dovetails won't have been flushed off which would be a complete and unmitigated bloody disaster!
I've been nattering at length over the last few days with someone from UKWorkshop who's keen to come down to Wilton towards the end of the month to make a top class job of a little project...say no more.

07 January 2009

Small is beautifull

I've noticed over the last year or so that the performance of my old de Walt drill driver was gradually getting poorer. It didn't matter what I did to it, the batteries wouldn't hold a reasonable charge for any length of time, so much so that after I'd charged one of them up (from flat) I was able to drive about six 25mm screws before it 'gave up the ghost' completely. I suppose it has to be down to me really 'cos I didn't realise about the 'memory effect' with NiCad batteries and I reckon I was charging them up when they were only half depleted. I got so fed up with this the other day that I just lobbed the whole lot...drill, batts and charger into the bin!
I then started to look round for a replacement and I fancied one of those new Li-on jobbies, that's until I did a little bit of Googlisationing and saw that I'd have to dig very deep to get something similar. Axminster, though are doing a 12v Milwaukee unit that looks very tidy...and it's on special offer, ever better! Something was niggling me though until the penny dropped and I realised that it came with a 1/4" hex drive chuck...so what use is that if you want to drill 8mm in metal? It transpires that you need to buy another chuck which is an extra £21, thus wiping out any price advantage so it was back to scurfing t'internet. I was looking for something similar, not to big, 12v Li-on with a keyless chuck and eventually I found what I was looking for... a very natty little AEG drill driver and the best thing of all was that it was on sale for less than £80, so I put the order in last night and it should be here in a couple of days. Good result I fancy!

03 January 2009

Grey Cells and the Woolly Hat

My little project in American Oak is drawing to a conclusion and I have to say, I think it's going to turn out quite well. As always there's always the odd slight niggle with any project but generally it's coming along quite nicely. The backs have to be fitted...yes, there are separate backs for each little space (worry not, all will be revealed in the fullness of time) and I made the drawer base in the AirPress last night, a combination of English Walnut and teak veneers to make a plywood of a sort. The main problem was the glue...it's been so bloody cold in the 'shop that the stuff hasn't gone off so I've had to bring 'd'project' indoors for it to set. Interestingly, I decided to use a combination of glues during the main gluing stage, slow setting epoxy for the wedged stub tenons and my standard white PVA for the dovetails. I did that 'cos the slow setting epoxy gave me a much longer 'open time' in the 'shop...not that it mattered much as the temp has never been much above bloody freezing so thermals and woolly hat have been the order of the day. The next major task however, is to make the drawer, easy enough you might say, but this one's got a curved front, so it'll add a little bit of complexity to the making process. I mentioned a while back that 'flat and square' is easy enough to make...as soon as a bit of curvature is introduced anywhere the whole job becomes a lot more taxing to the little grey cells, so it's a good job I've got the woolly hat to keep 'em warm ('specially after I've just had the New Year shear up top...)
My main Christmas present this year from SWIMBO was the leather apron from Axminster and after a couple of sessions in the 'shop it's definitely a sound investment...I'll just have to make a real effort not to use it a glue rag, which is my normal habit for any item of clothing that I wear in the 'shop.