30 January 2011

Bevelling and the road to Hell...

After a couple of good days in the 'shop, reasonable progress has been made on the Robert Inghamish style box.

Firstly, I wanted to be able to inlay the ebony into the grooves and planing the sides parallel is a bit fraught...take one shaving too much and you've got a sloppy fit. However, tape a little piece of card to the shute to cant over the inlay and the edge now becomes bevelled, so that all I needed to do was to fit it half way into the groove for a perfect fit. Simply remove, apply a little TBIII and squish between a couple of decent G-cramps...sorted. How simple is that?

What wasn't quite so simple was cleaning the ebony afterwards...no matter what plane I used (even my LV BU smoother with a very fine mouth), taking shavings across the grain (even with the plane skewed) was giving nasty tear out. I tried the Veritas No 80 scraper with more success but it was a bit unwieldy for small pieces like this. In an ideal world a LN scraper would have been just the tool to do the job...except I didn't have one!

I went to bed last night with a bit of a problem, which required a little deep pondering to solve...

Then I had one of those 'eureka' moments...a back-beveled plane iron! In case your unfamiliar with the concept, I used a back-beveled iron in my little Cuban Mahogany smoother (in the second pic) The single iron is set at 55deg (so it's already quite steep) but by honing another small 25deg bevel on the back of the blade, it now has an effective pitch (the actual cutting angle that the wood sees) of 80deg, which almost makes it into a scraper plane. The result of this brain storm is that I now had an effective tool to smooth the ebony...and it worked a treat.

The LN scraper would be better though...and I really, really need one.

It's a crying shame but you know what they say about the road to Hell...I can see that Plan A has been well and truly trashed.

29 January 2011


With the weather at only around OdegC today I decided last night that I'd be up early (at around 7.30ish) and put a bit of heat on. By around 10 o'clock or thereabouts it had warmed up to a pleasant 5 or 6degC, so wrapping up in thermals, fleeces and a woolly hat I was fairly happy all day working on my latest project.

The first pic shows a process that's going to happen a lot in this job...shooting the pieces to size. The bits in the pic are for the long sides of the lid.

The next shot shows the next jig in action on the router table, which is used to make the grooves to give the appearance that the box is made from several separate components, when in fact they're not...the strip of ebony is simply inlaid into the groove. If you look carefully, you can see that both sides of the lid piece have been done...this is because when the lid on the finished box is opened, you'd expect to see a mirror pattern of the outside...it all adds to the illusion.

Cunning or what?

The final shot shows the small bit of ply that's been nailed (eeeeeeeeek!!...nails in my 'shop) so that it acts as an indexing piece to space off exactly 55mm, which is the size of the burr elm squares on the front. The sides and lid are done in the same way, except that the distance is slightly less at 48mm.

I finished off the day by shooting in all the little bits of 4mm thick ebony and gluing them into the grooves...not as tricky as it sounds.

All will be revealed in the next exciting episode!

25 January 2011


This is the first of the jigs in use, a simple little thing really wherein the plane runs along the inside of the two small rebates. The thickness of the piece being prepared is set to 14mm so it's a fairly foolproof way of getting each piece spot on.

That, of course, is no guarantee that yours truly won't make a complete and utter hash of it, but so far (fingers crossed) the plan has gone to plan.

The next job is to make another jig to divide up the sections of the box into what appears to be squares by inlaying 12mm wide pieces of ebony into the surface.

On a different note, I've just been commissioned by the ed at F&C for a number of technical articles ranging from making a raise panel (by hand) to the ever so slightly contentious subject honing a blade with a sharpening jig.

It looks like it's going to be a fairly busy time in the 'shop...

21 January 2011

The Bloke is NOT for turning...

The latest edition of F&C dropped onto the mat yesterday and within it's hallowed pages was a five page article on the Media Unit that I submitted to the editor back in August, the payment for which (when it gets here) ought to provide for a fairly major purchase of something for the 'shop.

But what, exactly?

Some time ago, being whiter than the driven snow, I decided that I wouldn't spend any more on tools (after all, how many planes do you need?) but the little QS rebating block is so nice and I really, really do actually need it... the plan was to purcahase more timber, but the racks are fairly full now although little bit more elm from Yandles in the Spring wouldn't come amiss.

Like the Iron Lady of ill repute, I'm going to do a 'U' turn. I've decided this year to start to buy some of the larger items of equipment that I'd earmarked when I retire, so the first thing that's going to get ordered from Axminster is a decent Jet pillar drill, which ought to be here sometime in February.

On a different though connected note, I'm off to see Michael Huntley tomorrow to talk all things to do with Japan and Japanese tools...ought to be an interesting afternoon.

19 January 2011

Katana and chopsticks...

Regular perusers hereabouts will have no doubt noticed a gradual and moderately increasing interest in woodworking techinques and tools connected with t'Orient, in particular, Japan. I have to inform the assembled multitude that the 'Bloke' has really excelled himself now as we've booked an extended holiday to Japan in May 2012 to co-incide with my official retirement a year hence.

What's really exciting (apart from all the other stuff in the trip) is that I'll have an opportunity to meet one of the last remaining professional swordsmiths still working in Japan...and even more so, I should be able to take part in the forging process for a full sized, head-lopping Samurai katana, an experience that ought to be truly memorable.

Now then...hands up at the back if you know how to use chopsticks!

16 January 2011

A jig or two, the second...

Having 'sliced and diced', this afternoon saw the veneers and birch ply go into the AirPress for several hours, so that all the individual pieces (apart from the base) have now been made. Each is around 16mm thick, so once one side has been skimmed...

...they can go into the first jig, which is cunningly designed to plane each piece down to 14mm. The plane sole runs along the inside of the rebate and won't plane off any more beyond 14mm... clever or what?

The final jig that I finished this afternoon is the panel cramping jig, which looks complicated but it's not really. It's not quite finished yet as it's got to be assembled with the correct sized coach bolts as well as the 6mm thrust bolts.

All will be revealed though, in due course...

12 January 2011

Rebates and shiny tools...

Some progress has been made on the picture frames I've been making...nothing of pants wetting excitement really, except that after much deliberation I've finally realised how to make the rebates acurate and dead square on the router table. Doing each piece in turn is fraught with difficulty as the section of the timber is so small with the result that I've never found the rebate completely square. However, make a groove down the middle of a wider piece of wood and then splitting it down the centre on the bandsaw will then produce two pieces of the frame each with a dead accurate rebate...how simple is that? A little bit of planing with the LA jack on the sawn surface the frame sections are done.

The cost of this little job though, has just about paid for a rather tasty Quangsheng rebating block plane from Workshop Heaven which I'm expecting in the post today...and who doesn't like parcels with shiny tools inside!

The other event of interest is that the ed at F&C gave me a ring t'other day and has asked me to produce a series of three page technical articles for the magazine (jigs, fixtures and fittings, techniques etc) over the course of the next few months. The exact content has yet to be decided...looks interesting though.

09 January 2011

Sliced and diced

The latest project is now well under way...the small Robert Inghamish box in burr elm and African ebony. Yesterday I sliced and diced up the material which can be seen in the pic. The main carcass material is in 9mm birch ply with 3mm veneers over the top (which will eventually be planed down to around 2mm) The two strips of mahogany are the balancing veneers for the inside of the box and as I intend to fit a lining of maple, this is not going to be seen. I was surprised though, at just how easy it was to slice up the burr...the bookmatched pair on the right will be for the underside of the base and the two big pieces at the top are for the lid. The technique here is going to be slightly different to the main construction in that the lid panel will be veneered both sides and then the ebony will be routed into it in series of parallel grooves...should be interesting to do.

In the mean time, I had a couple of warrants to re-frame for my boss (Maj Nev Smikle) at work. He'd had them done years ago in cheap and nasty commercial frames which were appalling...one of the warrants didn't even fit into the rebates and both were held in place by strips of sellotape.

It will be of no surprise then that I got off to a sound start for the New Year as I had to replace one of the long frame sides...twice! The first was due to a machining error (the last pass through the thicknesser) and the second happened at the bench when I cut the first mitre. Nothing wrong with that, except it was the wrong way round and the wood was 4mm too short by the time I'd cut another mitre. Having glued up both of the new frames yesterday, I'll be routing out the slots for the inserts in the mitres which ought not to take too long.

The cost of this little job has just about covered a new addition (something I've wanted for a long time) to the armoury which ought to be here on the 'morrow...

05 January 2011

Extra present...

Christmas and the New Year have come and gone, but unfortunately No1 son gave SWIMBO and me an extra gift over the festive season...the mother and father (plus all the siblings) of a cold which more or less completely flattened both of us for about 10 days.

As he said on the 'phone last night, his..."aim is to please"

Yeah, right, as far as I'm concerned he can take this particular 'aim' and shove it somewhere else...

From a workshop point of view, I've done nowt, not a sausage as I've felt totally drained over the last few days, but the postie today has just dropped in a couple of bottles of TBIII which ought to tide me over for a month or two.

The weather's also picked up a bit now and we seem to be back to our normal January pattern of mild, wet days which is infinitely preferable to the mind numbing cold and snow of recent weeks.

All told then, I ought to be back in the 'shop soon, slicing and dicing some nice burr elm veneer...