30 May 2009


I had a really good ride into town this morning on the 'Blokebike' and sorted out the last remaining couple of bits and pieces for the Frame Saw, namely a small bit of 4mm silver steel for the blade carrier plates and a length of 6mm studding. Once it was completed in the shop I wound on some tension...I'm now pleased that I changed the original material from mahogany to ash as the tension on the blade is quite surprising. I tested it out on a trial cut on some softwood and it did work very well. It's now racked out in a spare slot in the 'shop.
Amongst all the other bits and pieces on my expedition this morning, I bought a small pot of Vaseline as despite frantic searches in all the 'crooks and nannies' in the 'shop, my old pot has dismally failed to materialize and unless I'm very much mistaken, it's now sporting a 'Stars and Stripe' on the jar...

You'll note though, that I don't intend to let the new tub get spirited away......

26 May 2009


Never, ever, let it be said that I'm prone to the odd fit of pique, of going off half cocked or being a tad irrational so that the pill box is never out of reach...not I.
Oh, no not me...but there are exceptions to everyday and today was one of them 'cos I went on a bender! The pic says it all really 'cos it's what's left of the Cherry Table after I'd smashed it up on the 'shop floor and then passed all the bigger bits through the bandsaw.
"For God's sake...why?" I can already see you muttering, somewhat despairingly. The answer really is an accumulation of small incidents that gradually amounted to a complete and utter loss of enthusiasm for this project, not least of which was my total disenchantment with English Cherry, supposedly one of the cabinet woods...not in my 'shop it ain't! To be fair, it does plane beautifully, but that's about all. Take another piece from the same board and it works with the same sort of enthusiasm as the coarsest, roughest pine from one of the 'sheds, it's just a totally inconsistent material. Then of course, the bloody stuff snaps at the drop of a hat...pull a joint apart that's the teensiest bit too tight and the mortise will just disintigrate. In fact that's what happened this morning and was the sixth time that something had just broken...you can see from the pic that a couple of the rails were reinforced by lumps of strip steel, so this morning...I'd had enough. Finish. Kaput!!

On an entirly different note, the other day I was using my pot of Vaseline to lubricate the leather wheel on the Tormek...and now it's gone, vanished...no sign of it whatsoever anywhere in the 'shop.
By a truly remarkable coincidence though, just before this vanishing act, I'd mentioned the wonders of Vaseline to someone else. I have a theory, far fetched you might wonder, that my very 'umble pot of Vaseline has been transmogrified and is now residing in the US of A...Pennsylvania to be precise!

25 May 2009

Socket to me!

I was pottering about in the 'shop yesterday evening as you do, having a bit of a tidy up, when I suddenly remembered something that I'd wanted to have a go at for a while. I see lots of references to other people cutting the waste from lapped dovetails with a router, which is a technique I've never done (as I've always chopped them out with a chisel)...so I thought I'd have a go! I hoicked out a bit of gash oak and maple from the oddments drawer under the bench and cut a couple of tails in the oak (which was about 10mm thick, so the sort of stuff used for drawer sides) marked out the sockets in the maple and set up the router. I decided to go straight in and remove the waste without sawing the socket profile (as normal) which in the event was a mistake...you do need to do the initial cuts to define the socket before the routing. All I did was to set up the router to the exact depth of the socket...I've found these invaluable (one of my Christmas presents last year) for setting the precise depth (other wise it's a bit of a 'hit and miss' affair on my router) and then I just nibbled away at the waste, plunging to exactly the right depth each time. Afterwards it was just a case of cleaning out the corners and I found a couple of fish tailed chisels (again, many thanks to Ian at Axminster for those) from LN very useful for that little job.
The advantage of using the router is that the distance in from the end of the pin board can be set exactly with the router fence so that you can plunge exactly on the knife line and finish at the right depth, which means that you've guaranteed a dead square socket...in theory!

I've also managed to get the Frame Saw pretty much finished over the weekend as well. As there's a lot of ash in it, I decided not to go for an oiled finish as over time it'll turn a sickly 'wee' colour, so I opted for a few coats of acrylic varnish with some wax over the top, with the centre stretcher polished with shellac. I just need to get hold of some 4mm steel rod for the retaining pins in the handel and a bit of 6mm studding from one of the 'sheds' There was a bit of accurate metalwork needed in drilling the blade holes at exactly 570mm centres but that all went hunky-doodly so I'm moderatly chuffed with the outcome...all that remains is to see if it works well when the tension is wound on.

22 May 2009


Perhaps the most useful of all the machinery in anyone's 'shop is a bandsaw...I certainly use mine on almost any occasion that requires a little bit of sawing, maybe just to snip an oddment off a waste piece to accurately sawing the cheeks on tenons. So it'll come as no surprise that the blade to fit the saw needs to be chosen with a degree of care.
My machine is only a small capacity Euro 260 (the same one that Krenov uses by the way) but it's very accurate and the one machine that's not going to be replaced in a couple of years (but I will get hold of a bigger one as well) I've always used the Axminster 14thou thin blades that have to be ordered as a 'special' and these particular blades have, without fail, worked very well on my saw, mainly I suppose 'cos of the very thin section steel which can be easily tensioned.
I was surprised though, to hear from Ian Styles at Axminster a few weeks ago offering to let me have a few of their new blades, a couple of which were 20thou 'meat & fish' 4tpi and the other being a 20thou M42 variable pitch. The 'meat & fish' blades have a smaller set on the teeth which in theory ought to give a smoother cut...and I can state absolutely that the finish on some 75mm beech was so good it seemed like it had been planed!
The welds on my previous blades were good, but not outstanding...they always felt a tiny bit 'lumpy' at the join but in chatting over t'interweb with Ian, it transpires that Axminster are trialing a new and rather up-market piece of kit for welding the blades. The very first thing I did was to have a look at the welding on the new blades and to me they seemed perfect, which was confirmed when I fired up the bandaw for the first time as it ran dead true...not the slightest hint of any chatter as the blade went through the guides.
The demise of Dragon Saws in these harsh economic times is to be regretted, but it seems that Axminster may be well on course to produce bandsaw blades which are their equal...time will tell.

19 May 2009

Lines and Handles

The Frame Saw project is coming along quite well now having got the basic 'H' sorted out. The critical bit is the dimension of the central stretcher so that once the blade has been cut to 600mm, the securing holes can be drilled at 570mm between centres...these are the dimensions given on t'interweb for the Jap Turbocut blades which I may well fit later on. A couple of pics show a blank piece of ash (with a knifed shoulder line) and one turned handle...note the securing pin hole drilled at 4mm and the next pic shows a drill inserted in the hole so that I could gauge where to put the saw cut at 90deg to it. This needed a bit of care as you need to saw it pretty much 'by eye' as I couldn't fathom any way of marking it out. It can't be done on the bandsaw when the block is still square 'cos as soon as it goes into the lathe, the live centre will just splay the wood out as it's wound in. You would have thought of course, that someone with my vast intellect and huge amount of woodworking savvy would have cottoned on to that...but I didn't, so had to prepare a couple of new blanks!
There's another couple of pics of progress on the Cherry table. Last weekend I was fitting in the Indian Ebony lines into each end frame. I prepared them at 4mm square and shot them in on the shooting board...you can see in the pic the four bits of ebony in the process of being fitted and I'm happy to say that this bit of the project went without a hitch, which makes a change. The last pic shows a rather interesting little jig I made up to take the final shavings off the lines to get a decent fit. It's just a couple of blocks of beech bolted together, but there's a spacer in between them (in this case some bits of 4mm birch ply) which is the same thickness as the inlay. All you need to do is to hold a sharp cabinet scraper against the far side and pull the line through...I was really surprised 'cos it does actually work very well.

16 May 2009

Black bowler

I don't like commercial TV, 'specially all those adverts that come at the most annoying and possibly crucial part of a decent film (not that there are many on the telly now), the only possible saving grace is that the interval does allow you to get another beer from the fridge. Some may say though, that the adverts are entertaining in themselves and better than the programme... there's something to be said for that argument as well, particularly if you like meerkats. Readers in distant lands though, who are sad enough to follow this inane missive, will have no idea what I'm bleating about so the best thing to do is to have a little look here to see what I mean.
So what's this all about then?
Many years ago, there was a Homepride flour advert, with cute 'Mr Men' type cartoon characters in black bowler hats who sifted the flour...'graded grains make finer flour' was the theme so I'm reminded of what happened in the 'shop last night.
I happened to be changing a bandsaw blade (of which more later) and had to remove the fence on the saw, part of which contained a couple of special washers on the rail locking knobs. Now being fairly meticulous about these things, I got out the 'shop vac and started to hoover out the debris from inside the machine...and I sucked up one of those washers.
Buggeration!...'cos I hadn't emptied the vac for about three months and it was pretty chockablock full of sawdust and other assorted crap. There was nothing else for it but to empty the whole bloody thing out onto the floor and sift delicately through all the debris with my fingers, grading all the grains little by little as I went through it. I put on a mask of course, but it still didn't prevent me from getting coated from top to bottom in fine, floury sawdust...all that was missing was the black bowler hat!
Good news is though, that I found the washer...

14 May 2009

Offset problem...

I did a little bit more on my Frame Saw last night and it seems to be coming along quite well. On the face of it, this is a pretty simple project...just three bits of wood and a couple of turned handles, but there's a bit more to it. The design is based on the Continental pattern that can be found here at DICK in Germany and is what I've modelled my one on. You can make them very plain but I decided to do a bit of shaping on the ash sections so I made up a template from some hard board and drew out the shapes on the ash, cut them out on the bandsaw and did a bit of shaping with 'shaves and a cabinet rasp. I've also included a large rosewood loose tenon (in fact, both tenons have to be loose 'cos the frame pivots when the pressure is applied to the blade) which I've seen in some designs, in theory to prevent the frame from twisting.
I've got to do the handles next with the carrier plates for the blade (these link the blade to the handle)
The problem that I've been pondering over though is how to ensure that the blade is centrally in line with the handles? The blade is joined to the plate by a nut and bolt so some bit of it is going to be offset...if the plate is central, the blade will be offset by the thickness of the carrier plate. The answer, of course, is simple and anyone with a reasonable amount of 'grey matter' would figure it out much sooner than I did...I need to offset the slot in the handle for the carrier plate by the thickness of the saw blade.


11 May 2009

Close Shave

Ever since I've been into this woodworking lark which is well over thirty years, I've always had a pair of those standard Record (or Stanley, whatever takes your fancy) spoke shaves hanging on nail on the 'Tool Wall' You probably know exactly the things I'm rabbiting on about...couple of adjusters at the back, light grey colour, thin little blade with a mouth that you could drive a Routemaster through! The general consensus is that they're probably one of the most diabolical tools that Record ever made and I never, ever could get them to work correct...I positively hated any job with a vengeance that needed a bit of spokeshaving.
So it was with a little bit of trepidation then that I approached the shaping job this weekend on the Cherry Table...a gradual concave shape on the outside of the four end frames, not a part of the project I was particularly looking forward to doing. Fortunately, last year I earned a bit of spare cash from F&C and the very first things that got ditched were those old 'shaves, to be replaced with a pair of very nice Veritas spokeshaves with the Bubinga handles. The difference was like night and day...whereas spokeshave work before was definitely a bit of a 'hit & miss' affair, with the new 'shaves, the job was relatively easy... still not a 'walk in the park', 'cos 'shave work is always a tad tricky to do, but far easier to control as there's a decent A2 blade and the mouth can be closed up really tight, plus of course the Bubinga handles make gripping them much better.

On a different note, the Competition on UKWorkshop (at least the Design Brief section) closes tonight and I'm quite pleased with the number and quality of the entries. I reckon it's going to be a pretty good event over this summer and I'm looking forward to seeing some really excellent pieces develop over the next few months.

05 May 2009

Third time lucky...

The Bank Holiday weekend has come and gone and I seem to have spent most of it finishing off the big review for F&C, which can safely be revealed now as 'the Big Chisel Test', last done by John Lloyd about five or six years ago. There have been a few surprises along the way which I certainly didn't expect...all I can give away at this point is that the 'Best on Test' and 'Best Value for Money' don't originate in Sheffield!
I've also made a bit of progress, or not, as the case may be, on the Frame Saw project. If you recollect, I started to make the original out of some beech which in theory is ideal, but having a numpty session in the 'shop a while back, I managed to completely bugger up the material...

...so I machined up a few more identical pieces in mahogany. Fine you might think.

But you know though, when you've done something that's not quite right, and you've got the tiniest, eansiest, weensiest little feeling about it in the back of your mind that keeps on gnawing and won't go away?..you know something's not kosher but you can't quite put your finger on it. Such was the case with the mahogany. The more I looked at it, the more I felt it twern't the right material, mainly 'cos the grain was slightly on the bias, and not dead straight.
The two main uprights of a frame saw come under a lot of tension when the butterfly nut on the studding is wound up and I just had the nagging feeling that under the load, the mahogany would've given way...the centre rail is under compression, so that's still fine to be in beech as in the original.
The mahogany has now been consigned to the 'off-cuts' drawer under my bench and I've sorted out some really good, straight grained ash for the uprights and handles, so here's hoping that after three attempts at trying to find the correct material, I've finally cracked it.

Don't hold your breath though...

01 May 2009

The Residence of Death

There are few places that invoke such horror as the mention of the name Auschwitz, which is where SWIMBO and I spent some time the other day. It's actually quite difficult to describe what it's like...it's certainly somehow different to the images that you normally associate with the place, it seemed to be almost like a surreal film set. It was a beautiful, hot, late Spring day, with hundreds of other tourists jostling around, eager to see the sights, so in some ways no different to any other popular haunt on the tourist trail.
It's only when you wonder why the guide speaks in a whisper and then you go inside the blocks to see the empty Zyklon B canisters, mounds of human hair, shaving brushes, shoes and pathetically labelled suitcases (all with their owners dates of birth, some as late as 1942) does the casual visitor realize that this is no ordinary place...this is the place where the Nazis in cold blood, ruthlessly planned the systematic extermination of 1,500,000 people.
Seventy years on it's hard to realize the awful events that unfolded here...there are no blue striped emaciated human beings or grey uniformed, jack booted SS, no deep snow on the ground, it's not -20degC. In the black and white picture, where the column of people can be seen crossing the railway lines and turning right, groups of modern teenagers were joshing around, not really understanding or paying any attention, little knowing that on the same ground where they're skylarking, an endless procession of Jews trudged down the gravel road to a certain death in the gas chambers...you can clearly see that I took my photograph from almost the same spot as the original.
There are no souvenirs to take home, no tangible reminders of your visit, no gaudy concentration camp keyrings or cheap pottery mugs with 'Auschwitz' emblazoned on the side, but with a little imagination you can take home something far more valuable...
...they're the terrible images that get burnt onto your soul in this residence of death.