30 December 2010

A jig or two

I finally made a start this afternoon on the next project, which is the Robert Inghamish little box. It's going to have just six burr elm panels on the front...three 55mm squares on the box front and three 55x25mm oblongs in the lid above it. Similarly, there will be four on the sides which, if my drawings are correct, will mean that there are six inlaid panels on the lid. The ebony 'twixt the burrs will be 15mm thick, so the overall length of the box is going to be around 220mm or so and the height about 120mm. The lining is as yet undetermined, but will probably be in maple, with possibly a small tray of some sort as well.

I'm trying to keep roughly to the methodology adopted by RI (who incidentally is looking forward to seeing it in F&C) so I've been making one of the jigs used in the construction...a simple little device to allow the burr elm panels to be planed to an exact thickness with the LA jack...14mm in this case as opposed to the original 12mm in the bigger box.

The next one will be a little more complex as it'll be the gluing jig for the ebony strips and burr elm panels. I need to make the jig first as the gluing bit is some way away...

...besides, I haven't got any glue!

27 December 2010

Oriental slope

The 'Secret Santa' present I made some time ago was well received in Germany and if you recollect, it was posted in Bruges earlier in the month. It was fairly straight forward to make, but made much easier as I had an ECE scrub under the bench and a very tatty book by Charles Haywood from 1951 or thereabouts with plans for all sorts of woodworking tools. The main body is a standard laminated affair in mahogany with the horn doweled in place...that was quite fun to make. The sole is a piece of the 'wood from hell' and is the first time that I've used it for anything in anger...apart from giving lumps of it to friends to play with. Being a kindly soul, it's interesting to watch their reaction when they attempt to plane it! Philly provided the 6mm thick O1 blade and very kindly ground it to a perfect curve.

I received one or two very acceptable presents which will allow me to slide a little further down the Oriental slope of slipperiness, one being an excellent Ryoba saw from Gareth, then a Japanese marking gauge from Megan and finally a pair of books from SWIMBO, one of which is 'Japanese Woodworking Tools' by Toshio Odate.

I'd been after this book for some time and it's already been useful as when I had a look at the marking gauge, I noticed that the blade is deliberately skewed by around 5deg, which I initially thought was a manufacturing defect...not so apparently as it's done deliberately to draw the stem tight against the wood when it's used. If I like the design when I try it out in the 'shop, I'll probably make one or two others. The second book is the final JK tome...I have all the others so this will make a little bit of pleasant reading in the New Year.

24 December 2010


It’s often surprised me that we take so much for granted these days. We give hardly a thought to the vast array of technical gizmos and gadgets which we’re constantly bombarded with…you only need to look at the weird and wacky gift ideas at IWOOT to see the sort of thing I mean.

Without doubt though, over the last twenty years or so it’s the area of communications that have infiltrated the very essence of our everyday existence. How many times have you seen someone with a ‘phone transfixed to their ear and wondered what they’d have done not so many years ago? There simply weren’t any in everyday use, so we just had to get by.

Similarly, t’internet was just getting going in the early 90’s and there were even programmes on the telly to explain the workings devious of the ‘information super-highway’…whatever that was. Here we are though, some twenty years on, complete with Facebook, Twitter and Utube so it’s no exaggeration to say that it now more or less completely dominates our lives. Want to do some complicated research and book a once in a lifetime holiday or a few last minute Christmas bits from Tesco’s?..sit down at the keyboard, log on and start surfing, it’s as simple as that.

The last decade though in particular, has seen an explosion in the amount of on-line Bloggers, myself included. It’s only t’internet, this vast interconnection of computers, which allows access to read them by almost anyone, from near enough anywhere on the face of this small globe.

Wherever you are and of whatever faith or denomination, from the warm comfort of my desk in this bitter, freezing cold weather, I wish you and yours peace and prosperity in this season of goodwill to all men.

Merry Christmas - Rob

20 December 2010

What's in your cupboard?.. part deux

The ongoing freezing weather, (it's difficult to call it a 'cold snap' now) has all but shut down practical woody activities in the 'shop. I have heating out there (a 1.5Kw oil-filled rad) and it's well insulated but even so, after a couple of hours the temperature has barely risen to a level where some work could be done...not forgetting it was around -8degC last night. Although it's possible to wrap up warm with multiple layers and a thick jacket (together with woolly hat) it's difficult, if not impossible to do work when your hands are like two frozen blocks of ice. I generally reckon that around 10degC is the minimum for comfortable, wrapped up working, but to get to that level would take a long time with my little radiator.

The other issue is, of course, trying to glue something. I'd long ago realized that my existing pot of TBIII in the 'shop would have been rendered useless by now, but I'd wondered about the big gallon container of the stuff that I'd bought to do some veneering. By design, I kept the container indoors in the utility room on a shelf over the central heating radiator (which is on pretty much all day now, but not at night) so the other day I gingerly took off the top, peered inside and gave it a swirl round. Fortunately, I'd used up most of the glue over the last year so there was only about 25mm left in the bottom.

What was left though, had completely separated, so once the winter is over, it looks like they'll be another order to Axminster in the pipeline. I think the next lot is going to be kept in the airing cupboard...

17 December 2010

What's in your cupboard?

As an aside from matters woody, I spent a very pleasant and moderately alcoholic day (unlimited amounts of free champagne is not to be sneezed at) in Southhampton University attending Megan's graduation ceremony for her MA degree in Osteoarcheology, which for the likes you and me is the 'excavation, analysis and reporting of human remains'

So the next time you have any skellingtons in your cupboard, you know who to call!

12 December 2010

Sleepless in Salisbury

There's no doubt in my mind...Robert Ingham is worthy of really pointy wizard's hat.

Why you may ask?..and a perfectly reasonable question.

The answer is that I've been puzzling all over the weekend on exactly how he's put together his elm and bog oak jewellery box which on the face of it, seems to be fairly straight forward...just some odd squares of burr elm and strips of oak joined together in lattice arrangement to form a box.

Simple?...think again!

The method of construction for this sort of box is given in a past issue of F&C, but Robert, being extremely cunning as we know he is, has only given the very sketchiest outline of how to go about making it and almost every waking moment of this last weekend has been spent trying to puzzle out how he's done it. Detailed analysis of the text and and pics in the article give some clues but most of it has had to be worked out...it's a bit like an irritating bloody itch inside my head that I can't scratch.

Fortunately, I think...only think mind, that I've got it cracked, but it's taken me a long time.

Although my version won't be nearly so grand as RI's it's going to be a bit of a challenge and will require a lot more detailed thought and drawings before I can start work.

Let's hope it won't end up as more bandsaw fodder...fingers crossed.

10 December 2010

RM rules...

Having spent a couple days looking round the ancient city of Brugge in Belgium, I decided that it might be a suitable opportunity to post my Secret Santa present as it happens to be around 250 miles closer to it's destination than the UK.

Logic would dictate therefore, that it ought to have been a bit less heavy on the wallet, but SWIMBO and I walked away from the post office with a slightly numb feeling (and it wasn't the cold)...nearly £20 to post it across a border into the next country.

We found Brugge to be a wonderful place but just about the biggest tourist trap we'd ever encountered...if a shop isn't selling chocolate, it'll be lace.

The chocs I can cope with, but somehow, not the frilly stuff...

A great couple of days, just don't go there to post your Christmas cards.

03 December 2010


Having decided that making a JKish style of cabinet with a coopered door is a 'good thing' I consulted the 'worthies' on UKWorkshop with a view to solving the problem of the cooperage angle.

It transpires that the sagitta (or amount of 'bendiness' accross the chord of an arc) can be calculated quite easily using some data in the equation, but the thing that I don't know is the radius of the arc. Happily however, there's a second equation immediatly underneath on the same page showing how to calcualte it, so with a combination of the two I ought to be able to sort out my little problem.

One other solution was provided by Richard Jones when he said... 'that you are dealing with a circle, so the calculations should be relatively straightforward. The profile of the door looking down from the top is an arc, and joining the outer edges of the door to the centre of the circle forms a segment. All you need to do is find out how many degrees the two radius lines form where they meet at the circle centre and you are on the way. If this angle is, for example, 20º then the complementary angle is 340º giving 360º when added together, the total number of degrees in a circle. You want 5 coopered pieces in your 20º arc. Therefore 360º/20 = 18, ie, you can fit 18 segments with 20º arcs into the 360º that form a circle. Next calculate 18 (segments) X 5 (coopered parts) = 90 coopered parts, effectively 90 segments. Then calculate 360º/90 = 4º, the angle each of those 90 segment forms at the circle centre. Next using triangles, the sum of all three inside corners of a triangle add up to 180º. You are dealing with an isosceles triangle so calculate 180º - 4º = 176º. Then 176º/2 = 88º, the angle formed between the outside face of each coopered part and the two bevelled edges. Set your rip saw bevel angle to this, or the complementary 2º depending on your saws protractor, or whatever your own calculations indicate going from your actual plans/drawings.'

Richard's solution still means that the radius of the circle needs to be found, which is easy given the formula above.

What's even easier is that once you've found the angle at the centre of the circle, simply divide it by the number of joints in the door (in this case 4) and then divide that number by 2 (as two pieces of wood will make one joint)

Simple always works for me...

29 November 2010

Don't have nightmares!

As I mentioned in the last entry, I've got a couple of projects lined up for the New Year (provided the weather improves slightly) so I got a thick jacket(plus woolly hat) on over the weekend and nipped out to the 'shop just to see what material I had.

First and foremost, RI's box shown isn't walnut but elm...and I've got loads of that, plus enough African Ebony for the darker bits. I can even laminate two layers of 6mm marine ply to make a core which ought to be more than thick enough with 2mm veneers each side, so that project looks like it's a runner.

Second and foremost, the brown ash is really good with some nice figuring to the boards, but on reading JK's book ('The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking' ...or is it the other one, dunno) the curved doors on his cabinets are coopered, not planed from one thicker lump. This of course makes it easier as I now need to source a decent bit of timber around 25mm or so thick and around 300mm wide. However, the thing that's started to give me nightmares is trying to work out the angle to make each piece as my ability with sums (as you probably know well by now if you dip into this missive regularly) is truely lamentable...

On a slightly different note, one of the items I've got on my Christmas desirable list is a Japanese marking guage, with a cutting blade rather than a western style pin. I fancy that the longer stock length may make them easier to use so together with the blade they ought to be more accurate.

Possible toolmaking project as well?...maybe, the cogs 'up top' have started to turn though!

26 November 2010

Decisions, decisions...

The recent cold snap that we're encountering at the moment has put things on hold for a short while but I'm already starting to have thoughts on the next project or two and trying to work out the sort of thing(s) that I want to make.

To start with I've a hankering to make another box of some sort. A couple of years ago I got hold of Robert Ingham's little book "Cutting Edge Cabinet Making" wherein there's an illustration at the back of one of his 'boxes' made from bog oak and burr walnut. The piece is absolutely stunning (even though his work takes some getting used to) and I've always wanted to use those techniques to make something similar...not nearly so grand but it should be acceptable. I spoke with him at some length earlier in the year at Rycotewood and he was quite happy for me to make something based on his constructional principals.

Another option is a wall hung cabinet of some sort. I got hold of a small parcel of timber recently from local makers where there were a few bits of brown ash thrown in which might form the basis of a small cabinet. I'd like to make it with a bow front planed from the solid (very JKish)...trouble is I haven't got anything suitable so I'm thinking of trying to find a slab of thickish stuff for the door.

Steamed pear or maple perhaps? Decisions, descisions...I can feel a visit to the wood shed at Yandle's coming on...

...but not in this freezing weather!

21 November 2010

Ikea flat pack?

Having had a few days off recently, it was too good an opportunity to miss to get this wall unit finished. It all went together without a hitch really, which is surprising considering some of the mistakes that I'm capable of.

This shot shows the underside of the lower shelf and just visible is one of the steel 6mm steel pins holding the shelf in place.

There's an overall shot here of the one end of the shelves. The wedges for the tusk tenons are in ebony (as are the end caps on the shelves) and each on was shot in seperately and then numbered so that it fitted each mortise. The reason that was done was so that there was the same amount of material showing above and below on each mortise on all six tenons...that's after a couple of little taps on each one with a small mallet. Nothing would have annoyed me more than to have unequal amounts above and below on the tenons.

This final shot shows one of the joints in detail with the ebony end cap on the end of the shelf.

Overall I'm fairly happy with this project as it turned out quite well without too many undue mistakes. It's been deliberately made to pack flat using the tusk tenons in the back rails...just don't expect to see it anytime soon at Ikea!

18 November 2010


Progress has been fairly swift with this little project and I'm almost at the point where I can start to apply some finish to the frames. This first pic shows one of the shelves that's already been veneered and is having the lipping glued both sides.
In the meantime, another shelf is being cleaned up with the LV jack prior to the lipping being applied. The great thing about using bandsawn veneers (which in this case were around 2 to 3mm thick) is that once they're down, the material can be treated as 'solid' so you can (within reason) plane merrily away making sawdust unitil the right thickness is achieved...2mm here.

Once the lipping had been flushed down again with the LV jack (...what a really great plane that is) I set up the router to cut the small slots for the 6mm steel pins which will eventually hold the shelves in position.

This pic shows the three shelves that have been part completed. The ebony end caps have been glued on (no biscuits...just straight onto the ply) and you can see how I've filled the halving cut-outs with some oddments of softwood. This makes it much easier to shape the lipping to the profile and also means that the sanding block doesn't catch on the opening. The ebony has been roughly shaped to the profile but there's still some work to do to get the final shape.

The final pic shows the component parts of the two frames cleaned up and sanded (just a wipe over with some worn 240g) after planing with my LV BU smoother (another great plane) with a super sharp blade and tiny mouth. The ends of the tusk tenons have been given a small chamfer with the LN block just for little piece of detailing (I was a bit puzzled how to finish them but decided for the simple option...always best!)

The next thing then, is to start to apply a finish to the frames...

14 November 2010


That time of year in late December is fast approaching once again and it's time for me to start to compile a moderate list of those desirables that I'd like to see dropped into my stocking by the big man on Christmas Eve. As there's nothing quite so good as a little bribery and corruption, I'm going to leave (as always) a small glugful of something warming by the chimney and a tasty little nibble or two for the reindeer's parked on the roof above...but here's the question.

How does the sleigh balance on the ridge, along it or across?...and what happens if the roof is too short for all the beasties and the sleigh?

This has always been a puzzle to me ever since I was a little lad, because when I go and examine it in the morning, there's never any damage. No loose or dislodged tiles, broken guttering, in fact I've even gone so far as to look on the patio on Christmas morning for some reindeer poo...nothing, nowt, not a sausage.

The other alternative, which is equally plausible, is that the rig is tethered to the chimney and hangs there horizontally in space, just hovering stationary forty feet over the garden and fish pond. Quite frankly, I think it's tosh and I don't buy into that one at all! He'd have to have invented some sort of anti-gravity device, but it would go some way to explaining though, just why there's no damage to the roof and how he'd manage to park about sixty feet's worth of animals and a heavy sleigh full of presents with seemingly, no ill effects. A puzzle to be sure.

But I digress. This year though, I've embraced the full power of t'interweb and have decided to go for an Amazon Wish List. A swift perusal will show that as well as one or two trinkets for the 'shop, I've included a few CD's and a some other items.

Back to the big guy in the red suit though. If the sleigh is tethered forty feet out over the garden, how does he get to the chimney?

Chopper?..that one doesn't cut the mustard either, 'cos that would blow all the roof tiles off and make a hell of racket and besides, I never hear a thing...

11 November 2010

Tempting fate

At the end of last week I penned the immortal words... 'A bit like going the dentist when you have that slightly irritating niggle in one of your teeth and you just know there's needles, drills and pain waiting for you'... which in hindsight (a wondrous thing) was tempting the old gods just a tad more than is safe.

I now have rampant tooth ache, on a course of antibiotics and am looking forward with the deepest, most joyous anticipation to the first part of a root canal filling on 01 Dec.


09 November 2010

Key of Power

Back in the dim and distant past (April last year) I was having a good old delve into a skip at work and managed to rescue a large whiteboard that had been ditched. It's been in constant use in the 'shop as it's proved ideal for making full size drawings of projects, but as the surface is a glossy white, it's proved quite difficult to find something to write on it...

...until now.

I've tried thin felt tip pens (but they smudge very easily) and ordinary 2H pencil, which will write on the surface, but tends to leave quite a light line, which whilst legible, isn't ideal.

At work though, we have a similar situation, where from time to time names need to be written on a shiny board. My boss got fed up with using these new fangled felt tips pens for much the same reason that I found, and being a bit 'old school' reverted to using a black chinagraph pencil.

Now being remarkably quick off the mark, I realised that this would be ideal in the 'shop as well. Needless to say, the 'Key of Power' was obtained and one or two were liberated from the stationary cupboard...

05 November 2010


Most of the jobs that we do in the 'shop are enjoyable, that's why we do them...it's not as though we have to do anything unpleasant (and it's worth reading this page) each time we go in there. There's one thing though, which I (and I know I'm not alone here) tend to put off... and then put off a bit longer 'til it's unvoidable. A bit like going the dentist when you have that slightly irritating niggle in one of your teeth and you just know there's needles, drills and pain waiting for you.

So what is this thing that I procrastinate over? Simple.

Sharpening the blades in the planer/thicknesser.

It's not as though it's a difficult job either...I just detest doing it as it usually takes me over an hour to sharpen and then re-set the blades into the machine...

...untill the other night when I did it in around 30 minutes.

I use a Tormek jig, and having read the 'book of words' again, both blades were perfectly ground, then it was just a case of inserting them into the machine and setting up the 'carry forward' which is the bit that usually took me so much time. I generally have around 3mm pick up on the blades as they rotate and for some reason best known to itself, I managed to do that bit first time.

The blades normally get pushed too far down against the springs in the block, so then the bolts have to be slackened off which makes the bloody things ping out again with a vengence, so then I need to re-tighten the bolts a fraction and push each end down gently with my finger tips to get the 3mm carry forward at one end...but then the other end pings out at 6mm so I have to push that down which then alters the 3mm on the other end...ad nauseum. And just that's one blade!

You see why I procrastinate?

But not the other night 'cos I cracked it...winner!

02 November 2010

'Rule of Thirds'...not!

I'm taking things fairly slowly with this one...no real rush as it's fairly simple sort of project. As I usually do, I made some full size plans in front and top elevation, so that it's easy to pick off the dimensions as and when needed.

Knowing that I was going to use 12mm tusk tenons in the rear stiles, and knowing that the rough 'rule of thirds' is eminently desirable I decided to make the rear ones 28mm thick and have the front ones at 20mm thick...which seems sensible.

Now if you're really observant, the pic reveals that in actual fact I made both the front and rear stiles 20mm, with the result that there's very little material each side of the mortise.

Hell's teeth and buggeration!

Why do I do these things?..I have absolutely no idea, not a scoobies!

Fortunately in this case, the situation was easily resolved as I managed to find a couple of bits of oak to replace them, so last night I machined two new pieces at 28mm thick.

What's the betting that I'll machine the mortises in the wrong place? About the same odds as you'd give the Titanic not hitting that lump of ice...

31 October 2010


I've just been doing a little bit of veneer sawing on the bandsaw...nothing too strenuous, around 125mm of English oak with a new 3tpi blade. I only needed six leaves and they came off without a problem.

I then took off the new blade, and replaced it with the slightly older one (for more general work) but when I adjusted it I found it to be slightly catching on the insert plate, so without thinking I put my right hand under the table to try to adjust it.

The only slight problem, of no real significance, is that the blade was still running...

...and the leakage makes a nasty red mess all over the floor.

So what's in your first aid box?..there's precious little in mine!

29 October 2010

Two and two?

A couple of months ago, I was a bit glum, in fact glum was only a moderate indicator of just how truly glum I was. Sums, as you may gather are not my forte (although it has to be admitted I was rather better at them a few years ago) but the recent SDSR (Strategic Defence Services Review) announced by Cameron's new duffgov.com last week has meant that there's going to be drastic cuts in manpower across all three armed services and the MOD in general, where 25,000 posts will have to be shed over the next couple of years.

The upshot of all this drama is that there's going to be a Voluntary Early Release Scheme (VERS) for individuals who would like to get out early (provided the package offered is not financially detrimental) and guess what?..

...that's me!!

The exact wording of the text runs as follows:

"The Defence Board and the Secretary of State have endorsed plans for a Department-wide Voluntary Early Release Scheme (VERS) to be launched in April 2011."

but what they didn't say in this press release was that applicants, if successful, would be released as soon as possible. Now as I've said, I don't do sums very well these days, but even someone of my limited mathematical ability can put two and two together...hopefully the answer ought to four.

Watch this space though...

24 October 2010

Timber trawl

It's good when a plan starts to come together. As part of my recent cunning scheme to restock the depleted timber racks in the 'shop, I decided to take the car out for the day and have a little drive round to various cabinet makers in the area, to try and see what off-cuts of hardwood I could get hold of.

Surprisingly...quite a lot! I ended up with a car load of maple, brown ash and English oak, plus some other assorted bits and pieces, no great sizes, but useful for the sort of work I like doing.

I simply did a bit of Googleisationing for the first six names that came out of a search, armed myself with a copy of F&C, punched the post codes into Janie the SatNav and hit the road. I found one maker though who looked very promising, but unfortunately there was no-one at home when I called, so I left the copy of F&C (containing one of my articles) and a note with some contact details. Hopefully there'll be a 'phone call or email made shortly...

It's also late October, which means that it's Secret Santa time once again on UKWorkshop. Avid readers of these inept ramblings will have realised long ago that for anyone to find out what I'm up to would be a tad more embarrassing than having your latest nuclear sub run aground...

However, all will be revealed in due course...rather like the sub!

19 October 2010


The current project in the 'shop is a small shelving unit in oak and oak veneers, with parts of it rounded over (including the shelves) to mirror the Media Unit completed a couple of months ago. The first pic shows a trial joint which is one corner of the framework. The joint is 'bare-faced' and relies on the gluing area for strength, but this is also reinforced with a dowel so it ought to be reasonably strong...not that it's intended to take any great weight.

This shows a wheel gauge being used to mark out the centre of the stile (ready for drilling the 6mm dowel hole) after the 20mm hole has been drilled...

...after which some careful work with the Japanese paring chisels will bring the sides square and parallel.

The small cross-rails are just made fairly simply by marking out and rough shaping to size with a jack plane...

...and then refined with a block plane, after which a curved cork sanding block is used to bring them into an exact profile. All fairly simple stuff with nothing to date that's gone wrong.

However, there's always a little something to upset the applecart!

The ed. at F&C asked me to review a Bosch table saw, so when I got in on Monday evening there were two very large boxes waiting for me to unpack. I dragged them eagerly into the 'shop, lumping and bumping up the steps and started to rip off the tape and delve into the boxes...and who doesn't like delving?...I do!

I hadn't got very far when I spotted a little white sticker on the motor...110v

Sometimes, I'm glad it's not just me...

16 October 2010

Bases covered...

One of the purchases that I bought on holiday last month was a rather good papyrus painting of the 'Eye of Horus', one of the three lucky charms of ancient Egypt, the other two being the 'scarab beetle' and 'key of life.'

Not being one to chance my luck and walk under ladders, I also bought a beetle and an alabaster key as well, so with my luck, (such as it is) all bases ought to be covered!

I've been knocking up a quick picture frame today from an oddment of American Cherry but I didn't have a spline jig for use on the router table. The way it's used can be seen from the pics, the big triangular bit just slides back and forth dependent on the size of the framing material. The cutter is simply a modified biscuit cutter set high up on the mandrel so it will clear the jig's baseboard.

I was little bit wary tonight in using it as you never actually know if the thing is going to work, but fortunately, the ancient gods were with me and the splines grooves were cut without a hitch,
though with the sheer amount of goofs that I make in the 'shop, more often than not, the old gods are nowhere to be seen...

14 October 2010


After a frantic three nights of sawing, this monster lump of oak has been finally reduced to two more manageable lumps though the bigger one is still too heavy to lift, so it had to be 'walked' across the 'shop.

The first couple of cuts removed the sap on each side and last night I did the big one. I went down the middle with the Disston rip...it took me 90 minutes (with breaks) to split the thing in half, but it's all been done now and has been racked away (vertically I might add) in the store.

The effort involved in this sort of work is considerable...my right arm now looks like Popeye's.

Unfortunately though, I forgot to have the mandatory tin of spinach for tea. Had I done so, the cut might have been completed in 9 minutes as opposed to 90!

12 October 2010


Some little time ago I reached a momentous decision...

No more tool buying (except the odd trinket or two perhaps at Christmas)

The reason, if you recollect, was that the once reasonably full stocks of timber were getting somewhat depleted and available fundage needed to be directed to replacing it. Well, my cunning plan started to come towards some sort of fruition last night as a pal from work dropped off a lump of air dried English Oak.

But this is not just any lump of oak, this was a huge chunk of quarter sawn stuff that's over 100mm thick! It's been air drying for the last four or five years so may still be a little damp in the middle. The aim though, over the next few days is to remove the sap with a nice sharp rip saw (that's going to take some time as well) and then cut into into two big pieces by sawing down the middle along the split as at the moment it's just too big to comfortably move around. Somewhere in there though, is the material for a couple of nice cabinets, depending on how I intend to cut it. I think somehow I've justified the cost of getting hold of that new bandsaw...

In conversation with James, he also mentioned that he had some odds n'ends of air dried English Ash which wasn't much good and... ''did I want that as well?'' (for no extra cost!) Thinking that it was going to be only fit for burning ( eg. peices of limb wood in the round full of splits and cracks) I said I would have it anyway...what was there too lose? However, when I saw it in the back of the wagon, it turned out to be much better than I'd anticipated. True, some of the pieces were very crudely hacked on a fairly agricultural saw but all were sound with most of the bits being reasonably straight, a good size, crack free and some were even quarter sawn. They were also a good thickness, being for the most part over 50mm thick.

All I need now is to collect a few more bits and pieces like this and the racks will be topped off...

09 October 2010

A straw too far?

Having collected the new bandsaw blades from the postie this morning and fitted one into the bandsaw, first impressions are that they're very good indeed, extremely sharp with no drifting from the line in use...

I fitted one of the smaller 10mm x 6tpi blades and gave it a bit of test though. Although not strictly designed for deep sawing, it coped admirably, demolishing into numerous small bits the Japanese style cabinet that I'd been attempting to make from a lump of 2 x 4" pine. Every single time that I went near the bloody thing, something went wrong. I don't have the faintest clue why... it ended up as a series of complete, unmitigated disasters which were compounded one on top of the other every time I did something. No matter what I did, it never, ever went to plan.

For example, the other evening, having made both the back panels (...eventually) I glued them in and then managed to drop the whole shooting match, including the cramps, which came off and smashed into the carcase.

Result?.. there were more bloody dings in the back than one of Tiger Wood's golf balls (he knows a thing or two about balls...{ some thought needed here!}]

Then this morning, I thought I'd finish the job and get the whole disaster finished and out the way, so I attempted to sort out the little drawers...

...but all the pine was bowed and bent. A corkscrew would have been moderately straighter.

Enough is enough, this had all the makings of the 'camels back syndrome' ...so the whole issue's gone through the bandsaw.

Good riddance.

05 October 2010

Pole position

Bandsaw blades...not the most riveting of subjects for a blog post to be fair, but an important one none the less. I do an awful lot of work and I mean a lot of work on my little Euro 260 from deep sawing veneers to lopping off the end from an odd piece of timber.

I've always used the blades from Axminster and found them acceptable, particularly as they offer them made in .014" stock, which suits the machine. However I'm going to try a few of the new Tuff blades, formally made by Dragon Saws which are a little thicker, being made from .022" material. By all accounts, they're far better than Axminster blades as the basic steel stock is better quality.

The jury's out on this one at the moment, but we'll see what they're like...

On the subject of bandsaws, the Jet JWBS 16 MKII that had been in pole position for a number of months has been knocked into second place on the grid by something else as friend from UKWorkshop had a close up and personal eyeball on each machine. It was his opinion that the overall build quality of the Startrite was superior to the Jet and even better...it was cheaper and being a parsimonious sort of soul, that suits me!

01 October 2010

Goldilocks flawed...

Things have slowed down somewhat in the 'shop, mainly due to the fact that it's a bit more difficult to get into it in the evening. Having moved my job location to Andover, I now arrive home at 6pm which isn't too bad, but by the time we've had our evening meal, 7 o'clock has come and gone, so there's not really enough time to wind myself up for an evening's work outside.

All is not lost though as I've had some ideas for my next project, which will be a wall hung unit in oak, where the shelves will have the same sort of form as the Media Unit completed in July ie: rounded edges with end caps in ebony. The recent long drive back across the dessert to Luxor got the little grey cells ticking over again, so I had the idea sketched out 'up top' by the time I arrived home...all that remained was to translate that into a full size drawing on my whiteboard, which took some time (as it always does) as the plan (or top view) to get the constructional details ironed out had to be redrawn severial times.

I also had a 'Goldilocks' piece of 18mm marine ply for the shelves...not too long, not too short but just the right length and width to get out three shelves, each one a metre long. By remarkable good fortune, the piece of oak to be sawn up for the veneers is also around a metre, which is a coincidence of megalithic proportions...

Sometimes, forward planning on this monumental scale astounds even me...

There's only only the tiniest, eansiest glitch in the plan.

The ply's warped so I'm clamping in the reverse direction to try and get the bow out. Hopefully I should be able to straighten it out in a few weeks, fingers crossed.

27 September 2010

Egypt...the continuation

Whilst the first bit of our holiday was in some ways very hectic, the second was far more relaxed...a 'chill-out' week! After a long 5 hour transfer across the desert to Hugharda, we eventually arrived at the Hilton Resort (part of a worldwide chain) got ourselves settled in and headed down to the beach. Most of the hotels have a little private beach and this one was no exception...and very pleasant it was too, complete with it's own coral reef.

The main focus of the week's activities was to see the corals and fishes of the Red Sea for which we had a few scheduled boat trips as most of the reefs are a few miles off shore. However, one of the visits was to Sharm El-Nagr, a small bay further down the coast were there were hardly any other tourists and the coral, which was truly spectacular was flourishing just a few metres from the beach. Wading in with snorkel and fins to less than waist height, we were surrounded by fabulously coloured fish who seemed totally oblivious to our presence.

The hotel was fine with just a few niggles like the Non-Smoking area in the lobby...this didn't exist so the foul odour of cigarette smoke was all pervading. As I got myself into Victor mode at the end of the week, a suitable complaint was registered...

The food was adequate but not outstanding (except in the La Casa Italian restaurant where we ate each evening) with the main self-service area being called "Pebbles." At peak times, with everyone clattering noisily about, it reminded me of a Waterloo station buffet in the mid sixties...slightly unfair maybe as the food was probably better!

There was also the full litany of hotel 'entertainment' ranging from the obligatory night club with the hideous, over-amplified, distorted strains of the 'okey coky' and the 'chicken song' blaring out into the night to the highly amusing antics of the local Italian beach gymnastic guru. Needless to say, yours truly indulged in nothing quite so unseemly...

On the last day, I had a quiet wander around the local area with the camera. It's very clear that the recession of the last couple of years has hit quite hard in this part of the world. Much of the area consists of vast hotel complexes lining the shore, interspersed with derelict, half completed buildings that looked much like the aftermath of an Allied air raid...except that these were all 'new builds.'

Note also the huge amounts of rubbish and general detritus that littered the place.

One of the other things that puzzled me was that there appeared to be no infrastructure to the area...just mile upon mile of swanky hotels....

...catering for the tourists, who use resources (particularly water) like it's going out of fashion in very short order. This the very edge of the desert though...go half a mile inland and you may as well be in the middle of the Sahara, so where does all the water and food come from?...beats me.

In all, though a thoroughly enjoyable holiday and one which we hope to repeat...next time though, we'll be taking an underwater camera.

22 September 2010

Magic and the Bad, Lazy Boys...the first bit

Having just started to get over a fantastic holiday in Egypt, I've decided to split the account of the last couple of weeks into two separate posts...just one on all our adventures would be far too much to absorb.

There were two things about the trip which initially worried me, the first was the heat and the second was going down with a dose of the dreaded Pharaoh's revenge, which thankfully didn't happen, mainly due to the judicious use of vast quantities of anti-bacterial hand gel and staying strictly away from the local tap water... we even cleaned our teeth using bottled water.

But then there was the heat. The sun rises inexorably every day into a clear blue sky...stepping off the aircraft in Luxor mid-afternoon was like stumbling straight into a brick kiln. All through the holiday, the temperature was never less than 44 and reached 50degC on the last afternoon around the Temple of Karnak.

We transferred to the delightfully air-conditioned cruise ship (MS Stephanie) without complication and retired to the bar for one or six well earned beers...if you've ever seen the famous clip from 'Ice cold in Alex' you'll have some idea of just how hot it was. We'd opted for the 'all inclusive' deal which meant that local drinks (as well as unlimited amounts of bottled water) were included as part of the package, thus taking away all the angst of the "can we afford another beer dearest?" situation.

The package though, included all local spirits and never being one to be a little shy in trying anything out of a bottle (within reason) I thought I'd give the Egyptian Whiskey a punt one evening. The barman tipped me a good 'glugful' into a glass and I have to say, it looked the right sort of amberish colour, so I had a 'nose' before attempting a sip.

Odd, very strange...I couldn't quite place where I'd smelt that before, so I tried again and still I couldn't place it. On the third attempt I finally stuck gold and without any sort of exaggeration (not that I'm prone to that sort of malarkey) it had the nose of the finest, vintage, cask strength disinfectant...and didn't taste much different either! However, you'll no doubt be pleased to know that as I'm a big believer in 'waste not want not' it eventually went down the hatch, but it was the only one that week.

We were sorted into two groups, one being 'Tuti Fruiti' under the guidance of Wahid, whilst ours was the Magic group under the most excellent leadership of Majred or strangely...Magic. Both our tour guides were highly qualified having to gain MA's from Cairo University before being allowed a license to act as a tour guide. The guides were enthusiastic almost the point of fanaticism when talking about the ancient kings and queens of Egypt...you could almost feel their reverence for their long dead rulers. They vividly brought to life the depictions of the temple hieroglyphics, which incidentally, Magic could read. Whist it's possible to see the sights independently, a really good guide will explain all the detail which otherwise would be so much 'wallpaper'...very ancient wallpaper to be sure, but still wallpaper if you don't know what you're looking at.

Did I mention the relentless, baking heat? All scheduled visits were planned whenever possible to start as early as possible in the morning, so that at least part of trip would be in 'moderate' conditions...a mere 30degC or so. Longer visits ended in the full, glaring, white heat of the noonday sun, one of which was to the Valley of the Kings and then onto the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Queens. Magic recounted that he had a lucky escape from the Luxor massacre which took place at Queen Hatsheput's temple (pic taken here from a hot air balloon) in 1997 as he was due to be in that spot at the same time as the terrorists opened fire, but was delayed in the Valley of the Kings as one of the party had a dose of 'gypo tum. He clearly remembers hearing the staccato bursts of automatic gunfire coming from the adjacent valley and freely admitted that the old gods were looking after him that day.

One of the odder things for someone coming from Europe was the continued presence on every corner of the so called Tourist Police, which seemed to consist of a bunch of lack lustre, scrawny, scruffy individuals, each toting an AK47 over their shoulder...perhaps the events of 1997 had something to do with it, but they certainly didn't inspire confidence.

Part of the trip was to inevitably cope with the street vendors, who seemed to sell an unending assortment of T shirts, spices and 'tack' (souvenirs) There was the most delicious and wonderful assortment that I've ever seen...quite outstanding! Their selling routine was unrelenting, being straight out of the Dell Boy school of charm and salesmanship...

"Hello my friend, where you from, you English? Lovely jubbly! Come in... see my shop, I give you very good price...come inside, we friends..."

The pic shows Alyson accepting a 'gift' of an alabaster pyramid (now residing in the 'smallest room') from one of the better emporiums where we stopped after our visit to the Valley of the Kings. Magic advised that the only way to deal with them (and we had to run the gauntlet at the exit of each temple) was to act like a camel...plod on regardless, head down and make no eye contact. Stop and your a goner...just plod on wearily and say nothing almost to the point of rudeness.

Once the Stephanie had sailed from Luxor, the Nile drifted by at a leisurely 10 knots. It was easy to see from the houses on the shore that little had probably changed since the time of the Pharaoh's...the houses were crudely built from mud brick with a few palm leaves stretched across the top to keep out the fiercest of the sun's rays. It was also very evident that the dunes of the Sahara desert sometimes came with a few metres of the river...to the West there's nothing but sun blistered desert for 3000 miles.

After our visit to the Valley of the Kings, the first temple we visited was at Edfu. As Magic explained, many of the best temples were built during the Late Kingdom period, starting at around 1700BC and Edfu "is one of the best ever" having the most impressive state of preservation. When you stand just outside, the sheer scale of the two pylons is breathtaking with many of the carvings in the stone work as crisp today as when they were first chiseled over two thousand years ago.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the week was the visit to Abu Simbel, located some 150Kms south of Aswan on the banks of the recently made Lake Nasser. Again, the sheer monumental scale of the incised rock sculptures is simply staggering...the journey across the Sahara was a long, bumpy one (we even saw some mirages on the way back) but to stand in front of the images of Ramses II made it all worthwhile. What's equally impressive is that the whole structure was cut up and lifted vertically block by block a total of 65m. The complete thing was then re-assembled on higher ground so as to be clear of the rising waters of the lake.

Magic was at some pains to explain to us some of the the various complexities of the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms and was in no doubt that the "lovely pharaohs" of the New Kingdom were the "best ever." They were of Greek origin, but as they seamlessly assimilated the religion and culture of the Egyptians they brought the civilization to the height of it's power and glory. In contrast, the rulers of the Middle Kingdom, shown buried in these rock tombs, were the "bad, lazy boys" and did nothing to promote trade or to protect the borders of Egypt, generally being thought of as a bunch of nere'do wells.

Another aspect that took the breath away were the granite obelisks, especially the 'Unfinished Obelisk' in the quarry at Aswan. This cracked during the three year process of extracting it from the rock, but it's estimated to have been the largest single piece of granite ever quarried, weighing over 1000 tons. Note I said 'single'...they were all cut and transported at the time as single pieces of rock. In contrast, the technology of the late Victorians was unable to handle the single obelisk that now stands on the bank of the Thames...it had to be cut into four pieces for transportation and final erection...

...and discussing such things, the Temple at Kom Obo offered a fertility treatment to the hierarchy. Careful scrutinization of the cartouche shows that it appeared to work!..didn't I mention that a good guide was invaluable?

One of the more surprising aspects of the week was Alyson's eagerness to give this bad boy a little cuddle. The little chap seemed quite cute, but his brothers in the same enclosure were slightly larger and capable of ripping a finger off for a little midday snack.

Undoubtedly, the highlight for me was the Temple of Karnak, which was just stupendous in it's size and grandeur. Strolling amongst the 134 vast columns of the Hypostile Hall I felt totally overwhelmed...I couldn't point the camera anywhere and capture all the columns. In fact the site occupies 64 acres, with just a couple left of the 40 odd granite obelisks that once stood on the site. The incised carving at the base of one of the obelisks is as crisp today as when it was first executed thousands of years ago.

This about wraps up the first part of this mammoth post...to be continued.