29 October 2009

La Guerre

The saga of the long running competition on UKWorkshop has finally run it's course and is due to finish at midnight on Saturday. We've had a few decent pieces submitted but not nearly as many as I'd hoped for. However, there's still 48hrs to go, so some more may well be posted.
I am disappointed with the turn out though, especially when it's been running for six months with some pretty good prizes to be won. Many competitors seemed to have left it to the very last hurdle before even starting and many more simply fell by the wayside (for one reason or another) as the summer progressed...something about the 'road to hell is pa......' maybe?

C'est la guerre I 'spose.

Those that have made it though are to be congratulated on the high standards achieved...I know there's one particular piece that would get my vote if I were judging, but I'll say no more 'til the event is done and dusted.

On a different tack altogether, we're having another 'Secret Santa' on the forum in a similar way to last year, and at the moment I'm a bit stumped for an idea on something to make as a gift. I've made more than enough 'Blokeblades' for the moment at least and am quietly pondering about something suitable. However, in the best traditions of meeting deadlines (I hope the irony isn't lost..) the nebulous meanderings taking place 'up top' will be converted into something a little more finite before packages need to be posted.

The biggest fly in the ointment though, that's barring all 'shop activity is the bloody decorating (which I generally detest with a passion) now well under way (having taken a few days of work) so hopefully things will take a turn for the better before too long...onwards and upwards!

25 October 2009

A close shave

Yesterday saw the eagerly awaited and much anticipated Great Southern Bash at Waka's (Tony) 'shop in Weymouth. Paul Chapman and Steve Alford called in at Wilton and after a quick brew we made our way south in fairly dismal autumnal weather. Fortunately, just as we arrived, the weather gods smiled favourably on us and we enjoyed a really fine and sunny afternoon. There were a large number of old friends and new acquaintances from UKWorkshop all milling around, as well unlimited amounts of porn...

...that's got your attention!

No, not the fleshy sort...tool porn!... vast quantities of dazzling steel, precious timbers and much else besides, all housed in Waka's recently finished and impeccably made tool cabinet.
I'd been roped in to do a demonstration on lapped dovetails, and was soon busy cutting and chopping on Waka's bench. More by luck than judgement, I managed to do a reasonable joint in aformosia (front) and cherry (sides) which was well recieved when it was finished.
Paul then gave us a very good demonstration of the capabilites of the Domino. Seeing it in action is impressive, but I've come to the regretable conclusion that apart from being able to shave with it, it's still not worth the outlay for a hobbyist 'shop, unlike Tony's planer/thicknesser, the smaller version of which without a shadow of a doubt will find a home in my 'shop in a couple of years.

A great day had by all, but what, I hear you muttering, is the other pic all about?

Today I started decorating our bedroom and the downstairs loo, both of which were badly in need of a lick of paint. After a couple of pleasant steamy hours with the wallpaper stripper, a blocked up fireplace emerged from behind where SWIMBO's wardrobe had been standing. I don't profess to be any good with a plasterer's float (considering it to be the last 'dark art') but the bloody numpty who did this bit of work must have daubed the stuff on with a shovel, left it to set and then papered over it!
I may just be able to get away with chipping off the old stuff and replastering...I hope.

23 October 2009

A fingerfull of goo

Owing to my complete and utter ineptitude with a sealing gun some time ago, I failed miserably to stop the ingress of the elements. If you recollect my pal Pete offered a cunning solution a while ago to the problem which has been quite well documented in these somewhat incoherent ramblings, so much so that the problem has been totally fixed...

...except for one teeny little bit, just where the window closes.

Now we've reached October, there's been a little more precipitation and I've noticed a wet patch (no sniggering at the back there!) just under the windowsill, which has puzzled me as it was bone dry after the 'shop had been been treated.

I thought that I'd give it one more go with some sealant, and if that didn't work then the opener was coming out and I'd replace it with a solid double glazed unit. Not feeling overly confident about the whole thing, the other evening when everything had dried, I gave the suspected area a wipe over with a fingerfull of silicone (especially on top of a screw that had been wet) and left it, hoping against hope that it might have done the trick.

Yesterday evening we had some very heavy rain...really great when you have to load up the Landy after a shopping expedition. Anyway, we got home again, slightly damp... and I thought I'd have a quick peek just to see if my application of goo with the pinkie had worked.

Much to my surprise...it had!

Mary Poppins almost had it right...it's not a spoonfull of sugar that's needed, just a fingerfull of goo.

21 October 2009


I wonder how many of us make lists?...and what do we make them on? I seem to make them for all sorts of things 'cos without one, what's laughingly called a brain that rattles around somewhere inside my head would know nothing.

So I have lists.

A list for things to service the car (when I used to), a list for shopping each week at the local supermarcardo, a 'to do' list of essential things that I need to organise before going on holiday, a list of stuff for the next decorating job, material cutting lists in the 'shop...ad infinitum.

Items on my lists are struck off with a religious zeal as they're done or acquired. On one occasion, which was the driving holiday to France last year, I'd forgotten to add my driving license to the holiday list which meant that I drove 2,500 miles on the continent without the correct documentation, which if nothing else was a trifle worrying. If I'd ever been stopped by the Gendarmarie or involved in an RTA, yours truly would have been dining on gruel for a very long time...

I like my lists, they keep me on a moderately even keel in a sometimes turbulent world.

As you might expect then, I have a list that's more or less ongoing all the time. The current one is pinned up on the notice board in the dining room and is a list of all the gear that I'm going to need for the Great Southern Bash at the weekend. Thus far it runs to one complete sheet of A4 paper, which may seem a lot.

Worry not though...with three days to go it might end up at two sheets of A4!

18 October 2009

Sticky fingers...part deux

Glue, adhesive, what ever you want to call it, is one of those things that woody folk seem to take for granted, I know I have done for years. For ages I've used a bog standard PVA and not really been concerned with it apart from the fact that it sticks stuff together and was cheap...my dears!

Well, that source of cheap glue suddenly got expensive, so I thought it was maybe time to look at other options...and besides, I was getting a bit hacked off with only being able to use half a bottle of glue as the remainder seemed to gel into a glutinous, globby goo at the bottom of the bottle...and then my fingers got covered in the stuff when I tried to get it out of the bottle with a small stick...yuk!

By a coincidence Axminster have a good deal on at the moment (and up to the end of December) on all Titebond glues (25% off) so I thought that I'd give TBIII a punt...got to be worth a shot at that price. I'd used TBI (the yellow stuff) in the past and I'd quite liked it...apart from the fact it ain't waterproof, which I didn't appreciate at the time. It happened that I'd done a bit of veneering and used tape to join a couple of bits together. Usual practice is to use copious quantities of water and a nylon scourer to lift the tape except in this case the bloody veneer started to lift as well, the result of which caused me to read the label on the bottle in a little more detail, where I discovered the reason for the veneering debacle!

The whole thing really put me of Titebond for a while...in this day and age you'd have thought that any glue manufacturer worth their salt would have least have the decency to make the stuff waterproof...apparently not.
So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I ordered the TBIII as I wasn't really sure if it was going to 'cut the mustard', but having used it for a few weeks now I've come to the conclusion that it's pretty good stuff...and I like it!

It's got a slightly longer 'open time' than standard PVA and is much more viscous. Whilst some may think that a disadvantage it's not, because it means that the glue can be applied far more economically with a small stick...I use the point of a bamboo skewer as it's a pretty tough material and doesn't get mushy with prolonged use. It also means that it's easy to get the glue precisely where it's needed, especially using the slidy applicator on the bottle cap, which is a boon.
The glue squeeze out, such as it is, can be cleaned off with little effort using a barely damp brush and best of all the stuff's waterproof, so I can use it in the AirPress for veneering.

Perhaps the thing of most concern though is the supposedly dark glue line on lighter timbers...hence the pic with the two test pieces glued together, one in maple and the other in pine.

I did think I'd need some white TBII for lighter timbers but if that's the colour of the glue line, I'm not going to worry unduly, so there'll be an order into Axminster for a gallon of the brown stuff fairly shortly.

15 October 2009

Sticky fingers

It's often said that a French polisher is born with the gift...it appears to be something that can be learnt, but if you have the knack, well... it's a walk in the park.

Unfortunately, I don't have the gift.

French polishing, thankfully, is not something that I attempt very often and when I do, I try and keep it as simple as possible... there's no grain filling, use of a pounce bag (whatever that is) and convoluted 'figure of eight' strokes to obtain the perfect surface.
By a curious co-incidence, a very recent entry on Konrad's blog deals with the same subject and it's gratifying to a mere dauber (when it comes to finishing) that we go about the business in much the same way.
I use a 'rubber' with a piece of cotton wool as the reservoir and an old bed sheet as the cloth. I fold it in the same way as Konrad, but there the similarity ends as I don't use a dab of mineral oil as a lubricant.
I tend to make up the polish (using bleached blonde flakes) as a fairly weak solution (aka David Charlesworth), dunk the cotton wool in it, wrap it in the cloth and then use forefinger pressure to exude a thin smear on the surface. Konrad only does two coats a day...I bang on one after another at ten minute intervals (or at least until the meths has evaporated) so by the time two or three hours have elapsed I've probably put on maybe thirty coats of polish, all of which have hopefully blended into on another.

For the first few coats, nothing seems to happen (and I wonder if it ever will)...the job stays a uniform dull colour but then the miracle seems to happen and after an hour or so it begins to take on that fabulous glossy hue. When it's finished all I do is to leave it for 24hrs to harden off completely, then give it coat of wax applied with a soft cloth and polish with a duster.
The 'it' in question is the Blokeblade which I finished last night, so when the Competition is 'done and dusted' I'll put some pics on the Blog. In the meantime, I'm making excellent progress on it's 'accessory' which should also be finished fairly soon and again, is turning out better than expected.

Perhaps the worst part of this French polishing lark is the sticky residue that gets left behind in all the 'crooks and nannies' of your fingers...I seem to have been gnawing polish off with my teeth for days now!

13 October 2009

GSB and the tuit list

Things have been progressing in the 'shop of late on the 'Blokeblade Special'. I didn't quite do what I thought I might have do to the blade, which has now been made and set into the handle. Even though I say if myself and not wishing to blow one's own trumpet too much, this one is going to look very good. When it's all completed I'll post some pics on the Blog. I've also started to make an 'accessory' to go with it, which is turning out quite well, but it's pretty fiddly to do. I'm hoping that the final completed project will form a decent prize in the UKWorkshop competition, which closes at the end of this month.

A pleasant thought which is looming up on the horizon is Tony's bash in Weymouth (or the Great Southern Bash) the weekend of the 24th Oct. There will a lot of woody nutters congregating in his 'shop that day, including yours truly. I've been delegated (said advisedly) to demonstrate dovetails and the cutting thereof, so I've been compiling a tuit list of all the kit I'll need to take down on the day. I don't expect it too be much 'cos Waka's got enough tools to have CHT call on him if they run short! I'm having a personal demonstration from Paul Chapman on the Festool Domino in my 'shop prior to the run down to Weymouth. Should be a very good day.

An equally pleasant thought is that Gareth is coming home this weekend as a break from his bean counting activities in the city. I fully anticipate that he'll want a vast roast dinner as well...only slight downside is that the larder will have to be groaning this coming weekend with all sorts of tasty morsels...and I don't even want think about the fruit bowl.

If I'm very lucky though, he won't come out to the 'shop.

10 October 2009

Picasso it ain't...

Having mailed the latest drawings off to Furniture & Cabinetmaking this morning, I took a shot of the current one before I went down to the Post Office on the 'Blokebike'. This one shows a splined mitre as found in a picture or mirror frame. I used to do this sort of stuff a lot at university for all my design projects and though I'm a bit rusty at doing this type of thing (as it was over thirty years ago) it didn't take to long to get back into the swing of it.
In conversation with Michael Huntley some time ago, I suggested that a few hand tinted sketches might be good to accompany his series 'Tight Joints' in the mag. What prompted it was we were both poring through an issue of FWW trying to decide what, if anything, we liked and what made it better than F&C. There were many areas that we thought were excellent but one of the things that was very obvious to me was the quantity of really good hand drawn and tinted sketches, so one thing led to another...
I use a drawing board, 'T' square and 4H pencil to very lightly draw them in isometric projection, after which I ink in the outlines freehand using the 'thick and thin' rule. The ink is left to dry overnight after which the pencil lines are erased and the colour washes applied. It's then left again to dry overnight and the woody textural rendering is done with ordinary colouring crayons that were loaned to me by Megs.
By the merest fluke, the current small job is a set of three picture frames, constructed using splined mitres...

08 October 2009

We won't get fooled again...

The latest post on The Village Carpenter blog pays homage to the excellent creations of Konrad Sauer, some of which I had the great pleasure to handle and play with at length at my Wilton Winter Wonder Bash just before last Christmas. As you can see from the pics, the dining table was almost collapsing under the weight of some very expensive ironmongery!
However, prior to that event, I'd had a previous chance to look and them in earnest in Waka's 'shop earlier in the year, where I tested them in a side-by-side comparison with a well set up Veritas LA jack (which also belonged to Waka) The wood I used was some of his interlocked rosewood and after some pretty exhaustive planing, there was no perceptable difference in the finished surface using Konrad's BD planes and the BU jack...which rather got me thinking, if not a little baffled because I expected the BD planes to be far superior...but they weren't!
On seeing Kari's blog though this afternoon, I remembered that Waka had let me have some oddments of true birds eye maple, so I came home at full tilt on the 'Blokebike' and straight out into the 'shop.
The results can be seen in the pics, (click on the image to see a huge enlargement) Bear in mind that the my LV BU plane was grabbed from under the bench and wasn't particularly sharp, though the mouth was very tight. In fact the thin wispy shavings were taken first, so I decided to increase the doc a smidge to see what the result was...still a perfect, polished surface, no tear out of any sort.
The only conclusion that I can come to is that although Konrad's planes are fabulous, equally good results can be achieved with planes costing a fraction of the price...but I know that Waka didn't buy them just to use at the bench.
Great though they are...I won't get fooled again into thinking that acres of polished steel and exotic timber is in any way superior.
Shame really...'cos I wouldn't have minded owning one.

07 October 2009

Pack drill

Like most hobbyist woodworkers, I like to keep myself busy in the 'shop, so I generally have two or three projects on the go at any one time. Not necessarily big stuff, but enough to keep me occupied while I do some pondering about the next large project, which is the TV unit.

A few months ago, word got round at work (probably 'cos I was reading F&C at lunchtime) that I did a bit of woodwork... "and did I do any picture frames" which strangely seems to be what everyone wants.

Having said that I can frame pictures (as well as make lots of other stuff) I'm now on my sixth framing of NCO's warrants and at £30 a pop it's a nice little earner. I make them from odds 'n ends of mahogany (again...it's what everyone wants) machine the rebates, shoot in the mitres, add a couple of splines at each corner, clean up, polish and assemble. Although they look deceptively simple, there's quite a lot of work involved as there's nothing quite as bad as poorly fitted mitres...they have to be spot on to look the part. Over the last few years I've done so many framings it's something I can almost do with my eyes shut

I've also had an email from Michael Huntley requesting another watercolour drawing for his 'Tight Joints' series in F&C. This time it ties in quite well with the current small projects in the 'shop...splined mitres, so that'll be done over the next couple of evenings.

Finally I have a small package to pick up in town this evening, the contents of which will enable me to make a bit more progress with the 'Blokeblade Special'

As ever...no names, no pack drill!

04 October 2009

Forces for Courses

In the immortal words of the man..."puzzled, confused I am" not over anything significant really, but more whether it's a sound idea or not to dispose of equipment so that something else can be bought? I'm referring to an interesting debate really that I sparked on UKWorkshop about the infamous Festool Domino...do I or don't I need one, that's the question?
The thing is that I've got several pieces of kit, one of which is my rather tasty Norris A2 panel plane that I no longer require (as I now exclusively use low angle planes) I paid well over £400 for this ten years ago, so that's a lot of 'folding' sitting under the bench not doing anything that could be invested better elsewhere in the 'shop. The other side of the coin though is that we (and for that read 'I') as woodworkers develop a strange relationship with our tools...they become almost like old friends and we become loath to part with them.
The debate on the forum though has really crystallized down to the principle facts that:
a. it's hugely expensive
b. the sort of stuff it does could be made with a router and 'shop made jigs
and finally
c. it's not really justified in a hobbyist 'shop (where money is usually tight) as the actual time it's in use would be minimal (different in a professional cabinet 'shop though)
Anyway, cutting a long story sideways, I've been feeling a bit like that stupid old woman in 'Open All Hours' who takes an eon to decide whether to have a tin of beans or a jar of coffee, but my decision has been made...and it's a 'no', so for the time being, my tools are moderately safe (until I want something else!)
Live long and prosper!
Bugger...wrong show.

02 October 2009

Normless...but where's Dixon?

I don't know whether it's me (... probably is) but it seems that the quality of viewing choices on the TV have been going downhill over the last few years at an exponential rate. It appears to be an unrelenting variety of 'soaps' (which I can't tolerate) sport ( 'footy' is diabolical) and the absolute pits being 'reality' shows, which, quite honestly, have me reaching for the barf bag.
It comes as no surprise then, that SWIMBO and I made the momentous decision to drag ourselves kicking and screaming into the 21st century and invest in a satellite TV box, which was installed yesterday.
Once the guy had gone (I hesitate to call him an 'engineer') I had a quick flick across the Discovery channels hoping, with a bit of luck, to come across Norm (beloved of so many) in the off chance that a few juicy morsels of woodworking savvy would be sagely tossed my way.
Alas, 'twere not to be as I couldn't find the right channel amongst the thousands (seems like that anyway) available...so at the moment, it's all a bit of a puzzle.
I'll persevere though, but of far more concern...where's Dixon of Dock Green?
Maybe this Sky stuff is overrated after all. G'night all.