31 August 2009

Brownie points...don't you love 'em?

A few pics of the on-going progress on this table. It's almost complete now and I'm just applying the final coats of Osmo Poly-X oil to the exterior. This one has been quite a 'journey', not least because there's been nothing square or regular about the top, which has compounded the difficulty in making it, not that it's a particularly difficult piece to make...just plain bloody awkward.
The first couple of pics show how the rounded tenons are made using firstly a skew chisel for the ends and then a small shoulder plane used very carefully to shape the sides, after which it's a bit of detail sanding. Next down shows the Mirka Abranet hand sander in use, which is really effective with the following shot showing how the cross-halving joint (at least the second half of it) had to be marked out...not easy!
The final two pics show the Lamello C2 in action to make the biscuit slots to hold the wide top 'X' in place and the last shot is a pic of the gluing of one of the four end frames.
This has been a tricky one and I'm glad that it's gone reasonably well...there are always some faults in any project and this one's no exception, the main one being that on the first main assembly glue up, it went together like a dog's hind leg and like an eejit newbie, I forgot to check for squareness with the result by the time I'd realised that the thing was about a mile out of square, the glue had long set. I guess it's one of those things that I'm going to have to live with, but I'll still find it intensely bloody annoying whenever I see it...but it's not going through the bandsaw.
The main and overiding thing is though, I've collected a barrow load of Brownie points from SWIMBO, who as it happens, is in a remarkably good mood at the moment 'cos she's booked a holiday in Cyprus so as of next weekend, I'm being dragged off to warmer climes.
It's a tough life, but sometimes a bloke's gota do what a blokes gota do...

25 August 2009


The most simple and logical things seem to utterly defeat me sometimes, things which as a maker I ought to be able to do with relative ease. The problem is that I get myself immersed in the 'nitty gritty' of the build and forget that the smallest, tiniest detail like marking what goes where ought to be stamped indelibly on the wood and more importantly, on my forehead! You'd think that it's a pretty straight forward thing to number the pieces on a project as it's made, and probably more important on this one as each individual bit will only fit in one place.

Did I do that?...did I work in a logical, sequential, orderly manner? Sort of... in a roundabout manner of speaking as I did number all the bits at the beginning in some kind of ramshackle order. The trouble is I re-numbered them again and got myself totally confused as to which bit goes where. Then just to get myself into total meltdown, I re-numbered the bits again last night for the third bloody time. What I'd done was to erase all the pencil markings when I was cleaning up the frames, so last night, just to make absolutely sure that they're not going to come for me before this job is completed, I assembled it again and marked all the joints. I usually do this using a 6mm chisel and mark them using Roman numerals in parts that will eventually be covered, say the tenons.

In that way there's no danger of erasing important details with the untimely application of a bit of sandpaper, unlike the application here of a bit of sensible logic, which in this particular case, got completely wiped out!

Nummeracy?...pah!!...more like brain ache.

24 August 2009


Things went very well this weekend in the 'shop, so that by COP last night I'd managed to get the first coat of finish on one of the frames, so there's light as they say, at the end of the tunnel. Gluing the four frames was straight forward as it usually always is with a bridled joint...it's just arranging the cramps so that you can get one directly over the faces of the joint to get a good fit that sometimes requires a bit of juggling. I use Titebond III for the first time on the teak (remembering to de-grease with some meths) and I found it really very good...I like the viscosity of it as it allows you to spread it thinly and it has a slightly longer open time which is always a 'good thing' at glue up time.

The technique of picking up angles directly from the drawing worked well for both of the crosses, which were made without too much bother. The only slightly tricky moment was when I had to mark out the the halving joint on the lower cross, as the whole table had to be assembled and the two pieces lined up with a variety of squares but once that was done it was easy to route out each section, chop the shoulders and then glue.

Teak is strange stuff...some boards are dead true and easy to plane, other bits can be rowed and interlocked. Just by the merest chance, some parts of the frames have this interlocked figuring which defy a plane blade and need to be scraped to a decent finish. Not only that, a couple of bits are 'pippy' which means its really difficult to finish...unless the plane blade is razor sharp (which lasts about 10 seconds on teak) it just tends to slide across the surface without cutting. However despite the cussedness of the material, all frames were planed and scraped to a reasonable finish, after which I sanded them using my Abranet abrasives and pad connected to the 'shop vac. These are a bit of a revelation as all the dust is sucked up through the open coat paper so that it appears as if the surface isn't being sanded...there's absolutely no dust left on the surface of the timber, which is very odd. The only disadvantage is the high pitched whine from the small bore hose connected to the 'vac, but I suppose it's the lesser of two evils...at least you can cut down the noise with ear muffs!

20 August 2009

Ponderings of a deeper kind

Sometimes things go well...and sometimes they
don't. No matter what you do, or how carefully you work, it can't be avoided, it's as if there's a little workshop gremlin sitting on your shoulder whispering evil nothings in your ear...you know the feeling! Whatever you try and do, everything seems to go pear shaped, one annoying little thing after another in a never ending procession, so that by even part way through, you just know that it's going to be a complete and unmitigated bloody disaster.

Such might have been the case with this top 'cross' arrangement, but I spent quite a while deeply pondering the best way to tackle it and so far, things have not gone awry but instead it's started to take shape quite well. The lipping and veneering went together in the normal way as it's a fairly straight forward process and one which I've done many times before.
Ultimately, I decided to cramp the main section directly on top of the drawing to mark off the angles at each end. These were then knifed and shot in with the LN No9, using a series of packers against the fence to ensure the correct angle was produced. The other advantage is of course that each end was square...always helpful. It was then merely a case of re-cramping to the drawing and marking out the two smaller pieces in much the same way, firstly to make the correct angle and then to plane the sides to the appropriate width to fit the particular end frame. The next stage is to mark out the position of the biscuits after which I should be able to cut them. I'd considered getting hold of a Domino at some point as at the moment they're quite a good deal at Axminster, but for this particular application a biscuiting is probably the better option.

18 August 2009

Bandsaw beckons?

The pic shows the plan for the new coffee table I'm making for the fossilised top that we bought in France last year. If you recall, the last futile effort was unceremouniously consigned to the bandsaw so after a break of a couple of months I've made a bit of progress on the second version.
It consists of four rectangular teak frames linked by a pair of 'crosses', one at the top and one at the base.
So far so good, except that all the dimensions of the fossil top are skewed...there's not one distance that's the same, which has the effect of making the construction of the two 'crosses' a tad more awkward than it might otherwise have been as all the angles are just over, or under 90deg. The lower construction is easier, as I've decided to make it out of a solid teak, but it's the top one that's causing some bother.

I'm going to do it by veneering some ply for one complete section across flats and carefully planing it in to fit (done by taking measurements and angles directly off the drawing) and then repeating for the two smaller bits, which will then be biscuited to the centre piece. The whole assembly will then be biscuited into each of the tops of the four rectangular frames.

I've always maintained that building something is as much an intellectual exercise as a practical one in that the maker has to really think their way through the project before a piece of wood has been cut or a plane iron honed...if not, then the bandsaw teeth beckon!

15 August 2009

Raybans required...

After the last entry on the Blokeblog, you might have thought, rightly so, that I was far too aloof and immune to the detrimental effects of eye squintingly shiny tools.
Big, big mistake!

Herewith a couple of pics of my latest aquisitions to dispel the myth...a few beautiful tools from Richard Kell, namely a delightful little brass square, a superb dovetail marker (1:5 and 1:8) and the Mk III honing guide, which is now forms the basis of my sharpening system.

12 August 2009

Any good at sums?

It has to be a fact of life that all woodworkers like tools and the shinier they are, the more we seem to like them. We're encouraged to part with our hard earned cash for what can be in some cases a pile of useless rubbish which, after struggling to make work for a few days is kicked into touch never to see the light of day again. On the other hand, there are beautiful tools produced now by several well known manufacturers, most of which are guaranteed to set the salivary glands dribbling in any half-respectable wooodworker...and I have to admit that I'm no exception. But the question should really be asked...do we really need these wonderful tools? Fabulous though they are to own, the answer is more than likely a fairly definite 'no!'

A case in point is the very humble marking gauge and similar derivatives.

One of these essential tools simply isn't enough...there you are, beavering away in quiet concentration making something delicate that requires the 'set' to be kept on a gauge for a while. If you only have one, it's a continual process of altering the set on your gauge which is a complete nightmare...you need at least six for comfortable working.

So what's the solution? Assuming that you've got bottomless pockets and can fork out humongous amounts of cash then you might like to invest in the LN Titemark gauges which are very, very guchi...six of those though would cost £456 and give good cause for SWIMBO to launch another one of those epochal, glacier melting glances in my direction, accompanied by 'the silence.' Not good, not good at all!

Faced with this dilemma, and being fairly resourceful I thought about making some out of wood...after all, it shouldn't be too hard, should it?

My first attempt was the rosewood gauge shown in the last pic. This had a solid stock with a tapered, 6mm mortise for the wedge...the first and very last time that I am going to try this sort of construction. The wedge actually bears on a saddle that sits on top of the stem, so that there's far more pressure on top as the whole thing locks solid with a gentle push of the thumb.
Then I had one of my all too rare genius ideas...why not laminate the stock in four parts with the wedge in place (suitably waxed)? It's a fairly standard method of construction for Krenovian style planes and has become an accepted part of the woodworker's armoury over the last decade or so. Once I'd ironed out all the niggles (not that there are any) it's a dead cert, cast iron, 24 carat, foolproof way to equip yourself with as many gauges as you need. The timber can be sourced from the off-cuts box and the pin is simply a masonry nail ground and polished using a Proxxon mini drill, so six really good gauges can be made for about 20p.
The other gauges shown are all made in the same way (a large panel, pencil and marking gauge)

£456 versus 20p...you do the sums!

09 August 2009

The magic finger

I built the 'shop several years ago now and to date it's been fantastic, barring one small detail...it leaked!! During any sort of wet weather I'd have water coming in all over the place and I had the 'shop covered with a huge tarp. This was down in no small part to a faulty application of the 'finger', more precisely, a complete lack of the finger when the silicone sealant was applied...I just glooped it on straight out of the tube and didn't smooth it down, hoping it would do the job.
This weekend, after having a break from the truly awful weather of the last couple of months, we've had a really pleasant weekend and I've managed to get the last few panels done so that the green tarp, which seemed to be a permanent fixture over the last eighteen months has now been dispensed with and will be transported to the dump next time I go into town in the Landy. The lesson of the finger has been well and truly learned...
Pete developed a cunning plan to shed the water off the bottom of the panels past the damp proof membrane...as you can see from the pic, there's an overlapping covering so that water won't sit on the dpc. So far, the system has worked and the 'shop is bone dry. The white bits that can be seen are in fact bits of 6mm marine ply (as are in fact all the surfaces of the panels) and you can also make out my frantic attempts to stop the ingress of the wet stuff by lathering on copious layers of black pitch...to no avail. I also had a blitz on the lower section of the 'shop by excavating all the soil from underneath the sleepers, so they should now start to dry out a bit.
Here's hoping that the finger has done it's job...

07 August 2009

A steal from Axminster

Having sorted out most of the ongoing smaller projects in the shop, I decided last night to do a bit more on the table project that was temporarily shelved whilst more urgent jobs were tackled. I also finished off the current bits and pieces (like making the wedges) for the Kell and will just need to order a selection of lapping papers from Matthew at Workshop Heaven after which I should be set up for a full scale test of the new system, which promises to be quite interesting.

Back to the table. I'm on the third of the four end frames and I sorted out the bridle joints so I just need to skim the tenons on the router table this weekend and check that they'll all go together squarely. I'm cutting all the joints by hand using the rip toothed LN dovetail saw, which is not ideal. What I should really do, is to cycle into town to PFT and see if they've got a half respectable old tenon saw that I could re-sharpen to a rip tooth pattern, but as I do this sort of joint in teak so infrequently, to be honest, it's not justified. Normally, I'd do bridle joints on the bandsaw, but as teak is so abrasive (and I have a nice new shiny blade from Axminster on it) I opted to do it this way. Surprisingly, it's good practise in sawing straight and to a line, but joints do need a little bit of a trim to get a really snug fit.

I'm going to glue them with Titebond III, having got hold of a bottle the other day in the delivery from Axminster...nothing exciting, just various bits and pieces that need to be replaced, such as discs for the sander (plus a large lump of rubbery stuff to clean out the accumulated gunge) and another couple of packs of P2 dusk masks, as well as a Stone Devil to true the dry stone grinder.

The only thing that I did treat myself to ( and something that I should have bought years ago) is a lovely little mitre gauge, which at the price Axminster are selling it for, has to be a bit of a steal!

05 August 2009

Global warming

I'ts been dawning on me for a while now that I've been away for several weekends doing woodworky type stuff, and SWIMBO's patience is only veneer thin...so if I were to offer just the merest suggestion that I need to go away again this Saturday, I'd get shot one of those tight lipped, narrow eyed, sideways glances that are quite capable of reducing a glacier to a gigantic puddle.
"Do you really have to?...."
"Probably not dearest, I'l just stay at home and cut the grass"...what else is there to say, if one's sanity and the status quo is to be preserved?
But I do need to get away, and therein lies the problem...but how the hell to do it?
You see, I've finished the shooting board with all the bits and pieces that I was making for my pal Tony, and they need to be delivered to Weymouth. If you recollect, I did a bit of wheelin' & dealin' at Pete's bash in early June, and the deal that was struck was for my services in exchange for a rather pleasant shoulder plane that is now surplus, as Tony has something almost identical from Konrad Sauer... (as well as one or two other offerings from that stable)
This has been a bit of a head scratcher for me over the last couple of days and then yesterday as I was cycling home on the Blokebike, I had a bolt from the blue, which I have to say, don't happen very often these days!
As it conveniently happens, SWIMBO is away on business in Germany tonight, so I've got a free evening, a window of opportunity and after a quick 'fone call to Tony, I'm off down to Weymouth tonight...result!

The pics show the completed project with the mitre shoots in place. Construction of the long mitre shoot is entirely with biscuits. Each of the mitre attachments is located on the left hand side of the board by a steel pin and held firmly against the return stroke of the plane by toggle clamp. I've used a small insert of oak to act as a wear strip (this bears on the plane sole just under the cutter) and the actual runway is made from some acrylic plastic. Both of the fences are adjustable as the countersunk screw nearest the runway is a very tight fit whilst the one at the other end is sloppy (so giving a degree of adjustment) and is tightened onto a large washer, once 90deg has been set. I also made Tony a jig to hold the blades from the LV spokeshaves which'll allow him to hone them in the Eclipse guide.

03 August 2009

Twelve angry men...

A couple of weeks ago, I was a pondering, as I'm often inclined to do these days, on the merits of another honing system, to be more precise the Kell series of guides. It irritated me intensely that as the DMT's are so small, only half the stone can be used with an Eclipse, so it transpired that a couple of days ago at Michael Huntley's BBQ I had a chance to have another go with a Kell, but this time it was the big boy, the No3. I'd previously had a quick play with a No1 and 2 before Christmas, but for some unaccountable reason, I couldn't get on with them...they just didn't seem to want to work very well and also the rollers were sometimes running on the stone and at other times not, depending on the width of the blade being honed. I wanted a guide that was completely clear of the honing medium so that all the surface could be used...after all, if I've paid for all those diamonds it seems a crying shame not to be able to use them!
After having used the Kell III though, it was suddenly like having a 'Eureka' moment...all the shades seemed to drop away to reveal sparkling sunlight and do you know the main reason why all was bright and shiny?
I'd been trying to push (as you would an Eclipse) the Kells rather than pull them! The small wheels means that it's almost impossible to push them as you would a conventional gauge, but the Kells are meant to be used on the pull stroke only (as you would on a strop)...complete muppet that I am, I didn't realize!
The Kell III uses a series of wedges that the user has to make (details supplied on the very comprehensive instruction sheet) so that once a few have been made, it's possible to hold any blade (bar possibly a big 'pig sticker' mortise chisel) between the brass bar and the beautifully engineered registration plate. Blades are held square against two pins in the correct manner ready for honing so that this means that regardless of blade thickness, a projection say, of 18mm from the front edge of the guide will automatically give a honed angle of 30deg. All that's required is to set the right honing distance, hold the blade against the pins to ensure it's square, firmly push in the appropriate wedge...and away you go.

These guides seem particularly suited for use on a 10mm plate glass substrate, with 3M Imperial Lapping film and this is what I was using at the weekend so I've decided to switch over to this sort of honing system. Matthew Platt, who supplied the Kell III very kindly let me have a large lump of glass complete with three assorted grades of abrasive paper, which is now installed in the 'shop under a cover.

The jury's back in...and the verdict is 'not guilty'