30 June 2010

Outside in

Things are certainly moving on now with the Media Unit. Much progress has been made over the last couple of weeks, so much so that I'll shortly be starting to clean up the interior faces ready for the first of the big glue-ups for which I think I'm going to have to enlist some help...no matter how I do it, it's unquestionably a two person job.

The first pic shows the backs being fitted, simple enough you might think. However the substrate is 3mm mdf with 3mm veneers each side, going into an 8mm groove. Even a mathematical genius like wot I am can work out that there's a mm of oak to plane off to fit the grooves...but would someone like to explain to me why it had to be the hottest day of the year to do it? The timing could have been a tad better....I think I must have sweated off at least 5lbs!

Once they were fitted, I could then mark out the rectangular holes for the cables (you thought I'd forgotten them!) after which they were then lined with some 'inside out' picture frames...ie the rebates were on the outside rather than the inside of the frame. If you look a little more closely at the pic, you'll be able to see that the panel is being cramped from the far side of the bench. This is because when I built it I installed removable tool wells for just this scenario...cunning or what?

On a completely different note, one of the things I noticed at the YOKB a couple of months ago was an Xtreme Xtension collect in the demonstrator's router. This meant that router cutters could be changed in the merest twinkling of an eye with a 1/4 turn of an allen key from above the table...so no more groping underneath with a spanner. I fitted one of these devices to my table the other day and it does exactly what it says on the tin...fantastic bit of kit.

24 June 2010

Fangs a lot, George!

The draconian Budget announced by the Chancellor the other day, and in particular the rise in the rate of VAT on 04 Jan next year have upset my carefully laid cunning plans. I was due to purchase my new equipment for the 'shop around about April but the tax hike means that for every £1K I spend, I'll have to fork out an additional £25 (if the sums are right...not a strong point, as you may have gathered!) and being a parsimonious sort of soul, I'd rather spend it on shiny tools than give it to George.

The new kit will now have to be purchased before Christmas and then installed in the 'shop, but one slight problem stands in the way...the floor. This is a pretty light weight affair and won't take the additional load of much heavier cast-iron machinery and so will have to be upgraded, which in turn means that to finance it, my existing equipment will have to be sold earlier than anticipated, probably in August sometime.

The upside is that the Alan Peter's Media Unit is really coming along very well, so much so that apart from drawer making, the finishing line is on the horizon. Once it's been finished and installed in the lounge, I'm going to allocate three weeks in September (annual holiday, but we're not going away this year) to do the work (which will also include upgrading the 'leccy)

It looks like SWIMBO's credit card is going to take another serious pasting in October, but fortunately it'll all be paid back when I finish work in January.

21 June 2010

The footy...

The Media Unit is really starting to take shape now, as yesterday I managed to make the central drawer unit sans any significant cock-ups. You can see from the pics that it went together quite well. Each of the dust boards has been shot in so that it's .5mm bigger at the back so in theory, there should be enough clearance to stop the drawers from binding...in theory.

You'll note that I said there were no significant cock-ups....well, there's just the weensiest, teeniest little bit of an untruth there because there was just a tiny one, or more correctly...four

Part of the project involved drilling holes for the shelf supports, so I nonchalantly marked out all the holes, paying attention to the 'handedness' of each of the boards (potential biggy time cock up in the making there) and started without further ado to drill out the holes with a 7.5mm drill...so far so good. Half way through the process I thought I'd better just have a quick count up of the number of inserts I had in my 'baccy storage tin...90.

....so it was with an increasing sense of imminent dread that I started to slowly count the holes I'd drilled.

Twelve in each row, and there were going to be eight rows.

Now you don't need to be a mathematical genius to do the sums and realize that the Bloke has scored yet another monumental 'own goal' and achieved a cock-up of truly epic proportions. Luckily, I'd bought a Veritas plug cutter at Yandles back in April, so with some very careful grain matching I managed to fill the holes so what could have been a disaster worthy of the World Cup final was relegated to an insignificant qualifier.

Oh...and apart from too many bloody holes, I hate the footy as well!

17 June 2010


I had another little parcel yesterday...who doesn't like parcels when they're full of shiny tools? This one was from Matthew at Workshop Heaven and contained four Japanese saws and a set of Ashley Isles dovetail chisels.

In trying out the saws, I cut a small dovetail joint in some thin oak using the rip saw and wasn't disappointed...it went through it like balsa. I've since used the cross cut and Kataba and have been equally impressed.

The chisels are very good as well. I had a brief look at one a while ago, but closer inspection yesterday shows that the side grinding is nigh on perfect, certainly good enough for dovetailing and general bench work. The backs though, weren't quite so good. As they're are hollow ground in their length, Ashley Isles maintain that when the backs are flattened only the front portion near the blade ought to be in contact with the medium (whatever is used...in my case the 3M papers) I found this to be the case in only two of the chisels supplied, the rest required various grades of papers to flatten them. To be fair, they weren't badly out, but not quite as good as I was expecting...they only took about ten minutes each to prepare. They're still not perfect (as my 3M papers are pretty worn at the moment) but the next time I change them, the fresh grits ought to see them brought to the required standard. I've also decided to keep them with a single bevel at 25deg as I have the Mr F's Oire Nomi's to belt with a hammer.

Now if you're really on the ball reading this, you'll have noticed that I said 'four' saws...and I've only tested three, so what was the other one?..

...one of these that I've been meaning to get for a while, but the old 'tuit' thing always got in the way!

14 June 2010

Short order...

That very nice UPS man brought me a parcel on Friday all the way from Berlin, courtesy of Deiter Schmid. I was primarily interested in the dovetail chisels made by Mr Matsumara, but on closer inspection the side grinding along the bevels was simply too coarse so these, reluctantly, had to be returned to Germany.

I'd also ordered though, a couple of the fishtail Bachi Nomi chisels which were excellent...until I got them into the 'shop to prepare them. The larger 18mm chisel didn't just have a 'bump', the whole of the back was bowed like a banana and proved impossible to make flat and level by hand, so I had to resort the side grinding wheel of the Tormek to make it slightly concave. I approached this bit a little nervously...after all the Tormek will remove a lot of steel in short order and once it's gone, there's no putting it back! Happily, this was a lot easier than I'd anticipated and a further ten minutes lapping on the 3M papers saw it perfect.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the little plane I'd also ordered...an ECE scrub with a hornbeam sole. I've always been a bit of a naysayer when it comes to these planes, but I was absolutely staggered to see how timber was chewed off...it's quite possible to reduce a thick board of oak to a pile of chips on the floor in very short order! I intend to use this little plane for the removal of high spots and 'wind' on rough sawn boards before going over the top on the planer-thicknesser.

However, the downside is that it's now pushed the total number of planes I own to twenty...someone's going to accuse me of being a 'collector' soon...

09 June 2010

Saw point, reprise...

There are some occasions when one of those rare 'Eureka' (that's going to hurt!) moments happen and the leaden scales fall away from your eyes to reveal dazzling delights beyond...such an event happened the other day when I was round at Pete's place looking at (amongst a lot of other stuff) his chisels.

During the course of the afternoon, he suggested that I have a go with his Sun Child dozuki Japanese rip saw. I accepted rather reluctantly because I've tried these things out before years ago and simply couldn't get on with them, the reason being that I was principally holding the thing incorrectly.

What I was doing was to hold the long handle with my wrist over the top of it, so in effect 'cocking' it at around 20 or 30 deg, which after around ten minutes was excruciating! Pete suggested that the way to use it was to tuck the handle inside the forearm, so the wrist is now lying along the right hand side. The grip in that position is not dissimilar to how a Western style saw is held and posed no problems in terms of comfort...so I was already half way hooked!
I was completely smitten though by the way it effortlessly sliced through timber, even as thin as 4mm. A 'hot knife through butter' is only coming marginally close to how that thing went through wood...fantastic!

Now never, ever let it be said that I act on impulse and do all sorts of irrational stuff...

"who me, sir?"..."not I sir!"

...but my pair of faithful LN saws have now been sold and as soon as the necessary has cleared the bank account, I'm going to order a set from Matthew at Workshop Heaven.

05 June 2010

'V' joints and Mr M...

A reasonable amount of work has been done on this project and thus far, barring the small surgical procedure that was done a while ago, it seems to be turning out quite well, apart from some of the veneer joint lines opening up in the hot weather. That's an intense irritation, but one that I can't really do much about. Fortunately, the areas where the joints have opened are in places that won't easily been seen...which is a bit of a blessing.

The main problem is that the two main pieces (the top and bottom) are heavy, so it's a bit cumbersome to keep lumping them up and down onto the bench, but the pics here show the process in chopping out this strange 'V' shaped mortise.

The difficult part was the marking out, but once that had been done, each 'V' could be chopped out and then chiseled back to the knife line with the big Japanese parers which were perfect for this job...the control afforded by the longer handle was excellent.

After having done eight of these little beauties, I'm a lot happier now, at the end of the process, than I was at the beginning, in fact last night I fitted one of the small uprights to the underside of the top...and with little bit of fettling, it went together perfectly.

However, I still can't finish off dovetails as I don't have a set of finer beveled chisels. I'll need them fairly soon as I've a set of drawers to make for this project and I've the small units to finish off for the downstairs loo.

So last night I order some of Mr Matsumara's finest...and a few other bits and pieces as well!

03 June 2010

Transference, the sequel

Some say the 'call of the wild' is one of those monumental moments when we throw off all domestic constraints and retreat to the great outdoors, complete only with a pair of decent boots on your feet and whatever can be carried on your back.

Ha!..fat chance here...it's more like the 'call of the bloody paint pot.' If you haven't guessed, I've been wielding the dreaded brush again over the last couple of days, but this time it's the 'smallest room' in the house, so with any luck, it's not going to take up much time.

However, I've decided to renew all the fittings that go inside...new loo-roll holder, small unit for the loo-paper and a wooden window sill. Interestingly, I've made this from some timber given to me years ago by my old granddad and it's the most amazing stuff to work with that I've ever come across. It looks like a mahogany of some sort, but it's not...the only really distinctive feature is that it smells faintly 'musty' when it's planed . It's the sort of smell you'd expect if you walked into a room that hadn't been occupied for ages...very peculiar.

I digress (as usual) The timber for the first two little projects was an oddment of Brazilian Mahogany that I'd had knocking around, dovetailed where necessary at the corners, so it was a good opportunity to give the Transference Jig it's first serious outing.

I approached the task with a little bit of trepidation...after all, it might not work and have been a waste of effort and time to make, but I'm happy to say that once I'd worked out the best way to use it (by cramping the pin board to the maple as well) it worked extremely well and made what has always been a slightly awkward job (jack plane on it's side, wood on top, pin board in the vice, square up, hold firm with the left hand, strike the lines etc etc) much simpler.

Back to the paint brush for further adventures in the wild...