28 July 2010

GWSB '10

Saturday saw the big event...the Great Wilton Summer Bash '10. I always worry a little bit as to a) whether anyone will turn up and b) will it go as planned?

In the event, it was successful on both counts...in fact a dozen friends turned out for the day, some having driven considerable (by UK standards) distances to attend (two arrived shortly after the pic was taken)

Having just done a lot of veneering recently, I decided to do short demo on making a simple 'lay-up' and the various subtleties of using the AirPress vacuum bag...

Paul Chapman (closest to camera, blue shirt) arrived late (his feeble excuse was the traffic) more than likely the motor was slowed down by the weight of cast iron in the boot, though to be fair, most of them were for PaulM (to his left, check shirt)

Bob Minchin delivered his ingenious 'Boblock' for my intended purchase later on of the Jet 260 planer/thicknesser. In case anyone's wondering, there's an issue with that piece of equipment in that there's no lock to keep the thicknessing table in place and after a short while it starts to wander. He also let me have a couple of lengths of 12mm birch ply to make a new router table fence, similar to Steve Maskery's ( Steve hoicked that down from Nottingham, so many thanks to both Steve and Bob)

Thanks also to Philly (blue T shirt, front) for the LN slide show presentation (but there weren't nearly enough shots of the delightful Robin) and my new LN leather key fob, which as I'm led to believe, is a rather exclusive little item. However, sadly, there were no pics of the 'bar' that he and others strayed into...

Matthew from Workshop Heaven arrived just in time to have a bite to eat after which he went back out to the car and brought in a box of goodies. I was particularly taken with the Carbur burnisher which gave an edge to a card scraper the likes of which I've never experienced. Impressive indeed! Many thanks also for the saw sharpening demo...I now possess a very nicely sharpened panel saw.

Final thanks must also go to Pam for again providing the most excellent and thoroughly yummy puds (a summer fruit pudding that contained a decent 'glug' of something from the drinks cabinet and a triple decker chocolate confection with strawberries and fresh cream)

All in all, an excellent day.

23 July 2010


It's often said, quite rightly that you can never have too many cramps, so when Steve Maskery produced this little clip about making Luthier's Clamps, I thought I'd have a go.

After all it looks easy enough...if you pay attention to Steve's words of wisdom.

Which I didn't, unfortunately.

The first three attempts were a hideous catalogue of errors too numerous to mention but included such outright gems as:

Getting that long saw cut in the wrong place.
Having the movable jaw glued to the stock, instead of sliding on it.
Drilling the 20mm clearance holes in the jaws so they were 10mm out of sync on each jaw (don't ask me how I did that one)
Drilling holes in the wrong place.
Failing to remove glue from bits that slide together.
Fitting a thick centre piece for the fixed jaw, when it should have been a thin bit.

You'll no doubt be surprised and absolutely delighted that after four attempts, I managed to make one that looked half-decent.

The other three are now occupying space in a land-fill somewhere...

20 July 2010

The Alan Peters Media Unit

Despite the many and varied cock-ups which proliferate this piece, it's finally done and dusted and I have to say that the overall result is quite pleasing.
The pics shown here are just the initial 'setting up' ones and taken with flash fotography...hence the icky colour of the drawer sides and wall behind is not a true representation. In addition, all the cables are still showing, which will of course disappear when the audio and TV kit is installed properly. It's also shown without the 6mm smoked glass shelves which were ordered yesterday, so once these are in place everything can get fitted out properly.

The drawer unit turned out well too, despite the slight 'foxes pouch' in cutting one of the mortises for the handles...I just made them all the same! The handles are curved at the front and made from ebony laminates with a chunky feel to them...small and dainty wouldn't have worked here. I resisted the temptation to make them curved in section as well as I think you can have too much of a 'good thing'.

Despite the odd looking colour of the sides, the drawers all slide in with just the touch of a finger in one corner. Construction is conventional...lapped d/t's at the front, through at the rear with the bottoms made from Cedar of Lebanon.

The inspiration for the piece came from these Oriental type of joints shown in Alan's book and apart from some minor problems in marking and cutting, turned out quite well.

The only problem now is that I haven't got an ongoing project. However, I do have the Wilton Woodbloke Summer Bash '10 to get ready for this weekend, when all and sundry will descend for a really good woody day on Saturday.

16 July 2010

Out the 'Zone'

This Zone idea is a tricky one...sometimes you're in and sometimes you're out.

Yesterday was a bit of an 'in' day with some 'outish' overtones as the pic of these small mortises for the handles amply demonstrates.

Sometimes my undoubted genius for making monumental cock ups is only only eclipsed by my capacity to keep making them.

I need to go and find a big rock and crawl under it...

15 July 2010

In the 'Zone'

Making drawers is something I quite like...it's the precision of making several sliding surfaces fit as closely as possible that appeals and like everything else, the more you do, the better you become at it. This time though, I'm following the instructions laid down by Alan Peters in his book, which if followed to the letter, make the whole business relatively pain free and surprisingly simple.

The first drawer I made two days ago went reasonably...the individual sides fitted 'snugly' (as per the instructions) the front and back were again fitted 'tightly' (as per the instructions) The sides were made marginally proud of the pins (as per the instructions) so all that was necessary to make it fit the opening was to plane these down until the ends of the pins were just skimmed by the plane.

So whatever possessed me to plane the top of the sides when I knew full well they fitted perfectly? Like a complete numpty, it's something I always do, every single bloody time which is intensely irritating and ultimately results in a fit that one of these could fit through. The fix though, is simple...just glue another slither on top of the offending surface and re-shoot the drawer.

The second drawer was better than the first as I was getting into the routine of marking out and cutting...it fitted quite well and closed with just a moderate amount of finger pressure for the last 25mm or so. I've just finished gluing the third drawer...I strayed from the path of righteousness though as I used a sash cramp to pull up the joints rather than the recommended hammer and block of wood.

There's something to be said for the 'Zone' as once you're in it, movin n' groovin' and being generally 'cool', things tend to move along nicely without too many mishaps.

The problem here is that I'm more often out than in!

13 July 2010

Night and day

A couple of years ago, I was having a delve in the wood shed at Yandles and spotted a couple of forlorn lumps of quarter sawn European oak lurking in a corner, perfect for drawer sides...or so I thought. These were purchased, along with some elm and slotted into the racks in the 'shop without further ado.

Yesterday, I started to use it...big, biggy mistake!

Although on the face of it, the appearance is very attractive, with a wealth of ray figure, it turns out that it's been so over kilned as to be to be the most foul, 'carroty' and unworkable timber that I've ever had the misfortune to come across...even with a minuscule mouth on the plane and a razor sharp blade, the grain picks up and tears, no matter which way it's planed. In comparison, the air dried oak I'm using for the main project cuts so sweetly, it's like night and day.

After a night of pondering, I've decided to re-rack it out...in the bin! I'm going to use some Honduras Mahogany instead mainly for two reasons, firstly, I've got a lot of it and secondly, AP recommends it anyway.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially if klutz's like wot I am don't read the book first...

11 July 2010

Walk in the park...

The first of the big carcass glue-ups has was done last Thursday, namely to glue on both the ends. I was scratching my head for ages trying to fathom out how I could do this on my own...without dropping one of the ends!

This, in itself, would have been a complete disaster and knowing my luck would have inevitably happened. As it happens, Pete very kindly came over to help, so what would have been a very difficult task for just one became a 'walk in the park' for two. He's also coming over again on Monday to help with the top, for which I'm extremely grateful.

To save some 'open time' with the glue (Titebond III in this case) the biscuits for the top, all 24 of them, have been pre-glued in place. This is something I haven't done before, but it seems to make sense, especially in this hot weather. I also had to borrow another Workmate from a neighbour as standing it this way is the only method I could see to get all eight sash cramps in place to glue on the top.

As all surfaces have been polished prior to gluing, there's very little to do now after the top has been positioned except to make the drawers and handles...so it's cedar of Lebanon planing today which means that the 'shop will have a rather nice pong in it!

05 July 2010

Pressing engagement


When I'm making a project that involves a bit of drawer work, this is the bit that can cause me so much angst it makes my head spin (easily done!) I've had dozens of ideas for the drawer pulls and each time I've rejected them...too small, not the right shape etc etc. Although pulls are one of the smallest parts of piece of work, to my mind they're one of the most important. After all, when someone goes near the project, the chances are that it's the drawer pull they'll home in on and touch first of all. So many times I see a great piece of work which has been spoilt by the inconsiderate use of inappropriate drawer pulls...it's almost as though they've been planted there as an afterthought.

I digress, as usual. Last night, I suddenly remembered that in Alan Peter's book, there's an illustration of one of his pieces with laminated, curved drawer pulls...and slowly the cogs 'up top' started to grind. Having biscuited the ebony end caps on the top, I was left with some thin slivers of ebony, far too good to just consign to the waste box, so I decided yesterday to knock up a mould using 18mm mdf and laminate four of the slivers to form some 8mm thick curved drawer pulls.

The result was that the AirPress was left running all night as the only suitable glue I had was a slow setting epoxy, but in retrieving them this morning it looks like they've pulled down over the mould quite well...not perfectly as the laminates were quite thick and ebony is fairly unbendy stuff, but good enough.

02 July 2010


Those of you with nothing better to do with your time than to peruse this inane drivel will have gathered over the course of the last few months, two significant and in this case, connected facts.

First and foremost, it was my intention to retire at 60 next January...eminently a sound, sensible thing to do. Cunning plans had been hatched for the replacement of machinery and a general upgrading of workshop equipment. Sixty five is the usual age for retirement in the UK, but many pension plans 'kick in' at 60 if the individual decides that it's time to pack up work, which is what I wanted to do...

Second and foremost, I was born in Jan '52 and a quick look at my Profile page reveals that I'm in fact 58, so somewhere along the line, what is laughingly called the 'grey matter' (or soggy sponge in this case) had added and extra year. Don't as ask my how though...

Hell's teeth and buggeration!