23 April 2009

Wysiwyg...sort of

I've been ploughing steadily onwards in the 'shop over the last couple of days with this mammoth review and what's coming out is the huge difference in quality between different manufacturers...even though these tools are very simple, everyone is unique and different, so it's quite tricky to assess the merits of different brands. What looks impressive at a first view later on takes on a different sort of 'hue' when a bit more of a detailed examination has been done, but a first impression straight 'out the box' is always a useful guide to the sort of tool you're buying...it's not 100% foolproof as I'll no doubt find when I come to do the testing and draw conclusions, but it's a good initial way to estimate initial quality.
On UKWorkshop, the Competition has been launched and already I've had a few decent entries posted. One of the problems I think is keeping the whole thing manageable and trying not to let the important bits in the initial Design Brief thread become intermingled with lots of 'chaff'...relevant of course, but not necessary, so I'm grateful to Philly who's removed a few posts at my request. If things go forward at the present rate, by the closing date (May 11th) I reckon there'll be a fair number of really good projects in the pipeline.

20 April 2009

The Sizzler

Having been forewarned by Michael Huntley, the editor of F&C, a very large and heavy package got dumped on the dining room table on Saturday, so the time has come to put the Cherry Table aside for a few days as I've got a major review to sort out. This one's a bit 'hush hush' but is a repeat of something that the mag did a few years ago, suffice to say that I'm rather looking forward to doing it in the workshop in the next few days. Pete came round yesterday to have a look at the stuff as I was interested in his first impressions of the tools. As usual he gave me an interesting and valuable viewpoint, some areas of which I wouldn't have considered, so I'm very grateful.
Having hit those fateful keys a few days ago regarding the UKWorkshop competition, I've just finalised the rules and have sent them off to Philly for his consideration... if everything's good then the thing will get under way fairly soon. I've had some really good prizes donated by Ian Styles of Axminster and Matthew Platt from Workshop Heaven, to whom I'm very grateful. My thanks are extended also to other forum members who have additionally donated a good range of prizes... there's going to be some very serious toys up for grabs that will be well worth winning. I hope that we get plenty of entrants to the competition and judging from the responses to the initial thread on the forum, I reckon it ought to be a sizzler!

17 April 2009

Two wrongs don't...

It's odd to me how things can go wrong in the 'shop from the first instant you set foot in it...well, almost. I had a decent day at work yesterday, got home, had a bit of tea and then said to SWIMBO that I was going to disappear outside to see what was happening in the 'shop. Having got the 'nod' I opened up and decided I'd do a little bit on the frame saw. All the marking out had been done a few days earlier, so I thought I'd just set up the router and cut the couple of shallow mortises that locate the centre stretcher rail. I'd set up a 6mm cutter in the machine and got everything set up as I normally do...perfick.
I cut the first mortise and then when I'd finished I noticed that it wasn't central...it was out by about .75mm. Not crucial, I could live with the error but wondered why it was out..very curious?

After a little investigative work, I realised I hadn't tightened the securing bolts on the router rods! Sod it!

Very calmly then, I sorted out the router, checked all the settings for the second mortise and went merrily routing away...'cept this time I'd forgotten to mark the 'stop' point for the far end, with the consequence that I went chewing into wood that I needed.


That was it...both bits of wood went straight through bandsaw and then got hurled to the other end of the 'shop. I spent the remainder of yesterday evening sorting out some more bits of timber (mahogany this time) and with any luck, the next time I pick up this project, it'll be a little more successful.

16 April 2009


A short entry here. As I've been encountering Oriental gobbledegooky spam of late on the 'Blokeblog' I've opted to change the 'comment' settings to a 'word verification' to make this sort of automatic computer generated rubbish a tad more difficult to achieve. If you're unsure of what 'captcha' means try Googling for it...quite interesting.

14 April 2009

Keyboards...who'd have 'em?

It's amazing what the 'send' button can do...you type a few words on the keyboard, hit the 'spellchecker' (essential in my case) press 'submit' and off the message goes and if it's wrong, or you have a bit of a re-think, there's nowt you can do about it...it's disappeared into the ether. Not that I'm having a re-think, you understand, but I do wonder what murky waters I get myself into sometimes...
Such is the case of the UKWorkshop Competition. A few days ago I nonchalantly posted a thread just tentatively enquiring if it was about time we had another, as there's been a very large influx of new members to the site and indeed, some older hands who didn't enter the last competition seem very keen to get stuck into a new one. Well, before you know it, I'd hit those fateful keys, so guess what...

...it's a Bloke event!!

As organiser then, it's up to me to sort out the whole thing, which hopefully won't be too difficult as my intention is to keep it as simple as I can make it, but then it is t'internet and it is UKWorkshop. I've had a chat with a good friend who thinks my proposals sound workable, so once it's under way, I intend to be pretty steadfast and rock steady (none of your jelly wobbliness here...oh no, no!) in the rules ( though I might be open to minor changes within the first 48hrs of the thing getting underway)
I've already got one or two judges who've agreed to participate and have another couple in the pipe line, so to speak. Some prizes have also been very generously given, particularly by Ian Styles at Axminster, to whom I'm very grateful. I still need a few more though, so will be asking the forum membership for contributions.
If all goes according to the 'cunning plan' it should be a very good event, with an entirely different slant to the proceedings at the end...watch this space.

12 April 2009

Diamond Deliberations

I arrived home from work at lunctime on Maundy Thursday (early stand down for the Civil Service) to find another parcel on the dining room table from 'distant lands' containing not one, but four 'items of loveliness' for me to review. Suitability gobsmacked, I contacted Rob Lee and let him know that all items for review in F&C must now be sourced through Michael at F&C. I would though, do a full review of each and post it on UKWorkshop, in the manner of the now long departed, and woodwork depleted, Alf. I think the jury's still out in Canada, but I have the feeling the 'parcels of loveliness' will dwindle very shortly to zero...
Whilst I'm on the subject of UKW, I mentioned last week that it's been a while since we had a competition. Things progress, as they usually do and by default, the mods in their infinite wisdom have allowed me to take the reins of this one. It remains to be seen exactly the format that it'll follow, but I've already got a outline of the basic plot and have one member who's willing to forgo all sanity later on to judge the entries. Steve will also kindly donate a prize and I'll knock up a 'Blokeblade' so it just remains now to find one or two others to judge it later on as well as a few more prizes.
The most interesting development in the 'shop though is shown in the pics and that concerns the elm burr. It's always a leap of faith with these things, 'cos you never know what it's going to look like when it's opened up...it might be full of cracks and voids rendering it pretty much unusable. After a lot of careful thought, I decided where and how I was going to cut it (having firstly planed a flat on the rough surface) The process is a bit akin I suppose to cutting a rough diamond, (though a bit less fraught) as you only get one chance...any mistakes can't be rectified and the whole lump of wood has to be consigned to the bin, which would be a tragedy. Fortunately, my deliberations were sound and after putting on a new bandsaw blade, I sliced up some really good 3mm pieces of the burr which were immediately then glued to the wide cherry rails in the AirPress. The bottom panel was also veneered at the same time...this'll go into the frames where they cross over.
SWIMBO did me an immense favour yesterday as well by finding a Chinese to English translator on Google. It can't have escaped your notice that there's an Oriental fan of these inane ramblings and it's only when it was translated did I realise that it's commercial garbage for some lighting company in Shanghai, so to the bloody cretin who's posting comments in some unintelligible language...please stop, as from now on all your crap will be instantly deleted.

08 April 2009


After all the excitement of Yandles (it's not often that I'm allowed out on my own...) and the disappointment of my supposedly decent bit of elm, things have got back into a bit of a routine in the 'shop... plenty of jobs to do, but I've just got to prioritize them. As a matter of some interest though, I did manage to get out a couple of decent worm free bits (well almost) out of the elm so that by the time they've had a double dose of wormkiller squirted down the holes, they should be fit to use.

The main bit of news though is that the big skip's back in town, so I was ferreting around in it the other day (as you do) and noticed that there was a very large (8x4') whiteboard that had been ditched, so that got hoicked out...but why, I hear you ask? Up to now I've been using a bit of painted hardboard for making rods and working drawings, which is alright but eventually a few coats of white emulsion starts to make the surface quite uneven with the result that it becomes a bit of a pain to use. I've got a couple of smaller whiteboards in the office with a dead smooth, glossy surface and a little bit of experimentation with a pencil allowed me to see that one of these things would make a rather good surface for all my project drawings (the pencil is even quite easy to erase in the normal way)

The size of the thing though, is far too big for what I need as it has to fit my wooden 'T' square in the 'shop, but my guess is that a bit of careful sawing and planing ought to give me at least a couple of really good white surfaces for my technical scribblings.

05 April 2009

Pixies in the Woodshed

Saturday was Yandles day, and what a glorious day it was too...a real Spring day, mild and sunny. I had a pleasant motor down to Martock in the Landy and having parked, went to say 'hi' to Philly and then bumped into Martin and Waka for a natter. I then went over to the woodshop and had a rummage around for a piece of burr material for the inlaid sections of the cherry table. After a lot of ferretting about I managed to find a really good piece of elm burr which was just about the right size at a very reasonable price of £18 so I was moderatly pleased with that. I then had a wander round all the machinery stalls and was looking at a Record table saw in particular which quite caught my fancy. Seeing the TS200 in the flesh reincforced my already high opinion of it, so it may well be a contender in a couple of years time...it's certainly the right size. I also had a decent chat with the Camvac rep who convinced me that an extraction system based on one of their machines would be better than a conventional twin bag system...one of the mitigating features was that the footprint in the 'shop would be a lot smaller than the equivalent system from Axminster.
Then I decided to have a wander out to the woodshed again to see if there were any decent offerings to be had...in particular I was after some more elm for another cabinet later on. After a couple of minutes of turning over boards I spotted a decent bit that was about 60mm thick. I had a good look at it and saw there was a bit of worm in the sap...''not too bad, whip that off when I get home'' I thought, so I happily continued to turn over the elm and found another couple of decent bits, paid for them and loaded them up into the Landy.
When I got home though, to my complete and utter bloody dismay, there was a load of worm holes in the 'so called' decent heartwood of my big bit of elm...it was only when I got home and saw the stuff in the bright sunshine than I spotted the tell tale holes. Now I know we've all heard of the Gnomes of Zurich and their mysterious 'goings on' deep in the bowels of unknown Swiss banks but I'm totally convinced that they've got got malignant little pixie cousins who live in the woodshed at Yandles, 'cos when I was there examining that bloody timber, I didn't spot the worm holes...they'd put a spell on it!!
Even more astounding, and I can already hear you sniggering to yourselves...this isn't the first time it's happened. Is it me, or should I have gone to Specsavers?

01 April 2009

Brown paper and bubble wrap

It's been a busy few days of comings and goings with the postie. First of all I received a set of superb LN fishtail chisels from Ian Styles at Axminter for review...these will also at some point feature in F&C, so the next time I see Michael Huntley, no doubt something will be arranged. I also found a slim package that contained a couple of excellent DVD sets on workshop jigs...ought to be a good couple of hours in front of the telly.

Also with the same delivery, I had a long skinny parcel from Wales that contained a couple of pieces of Dragon saw blades. I'm used to the blades from Axminster, and good though they are, these Dragon blades seem to be a pure work of art, if such a thing could ever be said about a bandsaw blade. Next thing then is to start to sort out the frame saw project. I'm managed to find an old whiteboard at work that was surplus and I intend to use that now for my working drawings and rods as pencil lines seem to rub out quite easily on the surface. After a bit of scurfing on the t'internet (mainly at German sites) I've managed to come with pretty exact sizes both for the saw and the blade to fit it. This is so that if at some time later on I need to get hold of a Jap blade, it'll drop straight into the saw without too much fiddling about. I've also sourced some decent beech for the project, so I'm hopeful it'll turn out quite well.

So as well as receiving parcels, I've been posting a few as well...only this lunch time the 'Blokeblade's were posted to their new owners and I've sold one of my block-planes. Well, you don't really need three of the things!..that's got to be parcelled up tonight as well.

I also finished off the little chisel with the HSS blade. Loafing around under the bench somewhere I remembered I had an old London pattern octagonal handle which would be ideal for this project and would also compliment all the other gouge and chisel handles in the rack. I used couple of oddments of ebony dowel to epoxy the blade into the handle and I have to say, I reckon it'll be a very useful little tool.