28 December 2012

Resolving Resolution

With the current festivities under way, the 'shop has been locked up for a few days, but there's been a little done on this current project.

Firstly, the drawer dust boards have  been made, oak and oak veneered ply with a walnut lipping.

Secondly, the oak runners for the lowest drawer have been inlaid into the bottom, together with a very strange oak rectangle in the middle what's got a hole at one end...

Very odd, but why?  The answer lies here.... but you still don't know what the little hole is for!  All will be revealed later, which means that unless you can guess the answer, you're going to have to grit your teeth and resolve to make a binding New Year's resolution to keep on reading this drivel.

The drawer unit is shown assembled dry.  There was almost a goof of unimaginable proportions here which I'll document later on.  Suffice to say that I didn't really have what passes as my pitiful brain fully engaged but there was just...say again, just enough material for me to get away with the 'fix'...

Finally, a shot of the double Krenovian style door latches.  I made them 15mm deep as I inserted 10mm oak filler plug into each on as mdf isn't the best thing to hold a screw...and besides, if the latches were ever removed, the sight of some nasty mdf is going to cause someone to wrinkle their noses and exclaim...."eweeeeee....why did he have to use that stuff?"

So here we are, the end of yet another calamitous year on the 'Blokeblog', with no doubt many more calamities to come in the following year.  Wherever on this small Earth of ours that you happen to be reading this, I hope you've had a most excellent Christmas and I wish you and yours a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

13 December 2012

Panel pondering?

A little more has been done on this latest piece as the first pic shows the basic cabinet...constructed from 2mm veneers of walnut over 15mm mdf with 10mm lipping mitred at the corners.  Jointing with 6mm Dominos.

All well and good thus far.

I then came to the rear panel, where again I had some smaller pieces of English Walnut to play with...

...all of which were about the same size as the door panels, so that the intention is that the rear should be a mirror of the front.

Except that I want to include a small drawer unit on the right hand side, which means that only two of the panels will be used and I'll have to find a bit of something else (not quite so striking) to go behind the drawers, which I think I've got lurking somewhere...

Onwards and upwards...

08 December 2012

One for the chop...

Maple...hard, rock maple.  Nice timber but I don't happen to use much of it, though I did just happen to have a decent, longish board around 140mm wide and 50 thick.

At least I thought it was a decent board until I started to machine it...and thats when all the tiny splits and checks appeared, so as far as using it for a bit of furniture, it might as well have been some kindling because that's all it was really fit for.

However, I've had a bit of hankering for some time now for a nice chunkable chopping board to accompany the knives I bought earlier in the year in Japan, so rather than burn this bit of maple, why not turn it into a thick cutting board?...after all, the splits and cracks won't really matter.

The board was then ripped, planed, skimmed and re-jointed with a double row of biscuits on each glue line... that's 36 of the things in total!  I also flipped each piece through 90deg so that the entire chopping surface is now quarter sawn and it was finished with a chamfer all round.

Having finished it this morning, I can think of one or two things that could be sliced up on it...

04 December 2012

Normal service...

...on the Blokeblog will be resumed shortly.  At the moment I'm just finishing off laying a solid t&g oak floor on the upstairs landing which will be the very last part of the mammoth job of redecorating the hall, which I began just before we went to Japan in early May and regular readers who've nothing better to do with their time will know how I just love dipping into the paint pot...one of my most favourite occupations...

Laying the floor was easy enough, it's just the fiddly, awkward bits round the door openings and at the edges which have proved a mite time consuming, so fear not, dear peruser...once I've done with this little job, normal service will be resumed.

24 November 2012

To Squish or not to Squish?

You might be forgive for wondering what this:

...little block of oak is for?  It has a square hole going through the length and a 6mm groove on the underside.  The answer is that the hole fits my Chalco stamp...

...so that when it's fitted into said orifice it:

...pokes out thus.  If you've ever tried to use on of these stamps, they're notoriously difficult to use properly by 'tapping' with a maul...it's either too hard, or too soft and very difficult to find the right 'Goldilocks' sweet-spot (which also depends on the hardness of different timbers) and of course, once struck it can't be re-tapped 'cos it won't line up!

So what happens to the slot?...said slot then fits over a:

...sash cramp bar, so that when the test piece (rosewood here) is  squarely supported:

...I found a half-turn on the tommy-bar was enough to make a very satisfactory:

...makers mark.  Something softer like a piece of mahogany took a quarter turn...and turning a cantankerous, awkward little job like this into something with a little control is quite satisfying.

I thank you....

19 November 2012

Ditherations...the Deux

Some say that I'm a procrastinating sort of bloke, which is ever so  slightly a little bit unfair. If I weren't such a delicate, caring sort of soul, that accusation could be mortally upsetting and liable to see me lying down in a dark room somewhere.

So I don't procrastinate...but I do dither, a little.  Are they the same thing?...perhaps only the Tooth Fairy has the answer to that one.

However, I digress, or dither...see?...told you!...and as can be seen from the accompanying pic, I've started a new cabinet today, this time one with double doors and an ash stand.  The carcase work is still in English Walnut with the two panels part of the same 1970's job that the back panel of the Mask Cabinet was made from and all parts of the door frames are book matched...or as near as damn it.

The particular ditheration on this occasion was this.

Do I make the doors first and then the cabinet, or the cabinet first and make the doors to fit?

To be fair, I've been pondering on this for weeks but this morning the penny finally, finally dropped (and yes, it's taken a long time).  It's the finite size of the existing panels that will ultimately determine the overall length and height of the finished cabinet.

Now that load is off my pea sized brain, I can get back to the job.

...until the next ditheration rears it's ugly head.

12 November 2012

The Shot Edge

Quite a bit of the stuff I make involves veneering of one sort or another, usually for a back panel or more often for a carcase side(s) and I'll often use commercial grade veneer (0.6mm thick) but these days I much prefer to saw my own on the big bandsaw.

No matter what sort of veneer is used though, it's still got to be jointed...somehow.

And therein lies the difficulty...or could be if you don't go about it the right way.

When I first started to veneer stuff several years ago, I tried all sorts of ways to get that elusive pair of mating edges.  The obvious way is to use a steel straight edge and knife, but a Stanley blade has a double bevel, so even if you manage to cut a pair accurately, they meet with a 'V' which simply isn't acceptable.

The next alternative is to use a single bevel knife and I found the best ones were made from an oddment of machine hacksaw blade...grind it correctly, wrap a piece of masking tape round one end and you've made yourself a wicked little knife.  Use this against a thick piece of 18mm mdf and provided the veneer doesn't splinter when it's sliced, you may be onto a winner...

...except that 99 times out of a 100, the damn stuff will splinter no matter how carefully and methodically you make the cuts.

The only way to give yourself a fighting chance to produce pair of mating edges is to make a veneer shooting board, where a couple of consecutive leaves are cramped and then shot in using the longest plane you can get lay your hands on..in this case it's 'Big Woody' on the runway.

The veneer shoot is fine for commercial veneer, but it's also essential if you use bandsawn veneer, which can be 2mm and upwards in thickness... your'e on a hiding to nothing if you try and cut the stuff with a knife!  It could be cut on the tablesaur or with a router, but the veneer shoot is by far the easiest method.

Once all the leaves have been jointed, apply the veneer tape, glue and then slide swiftly...

...into the AirPress bag for a couple of hours.  I usually cover the job with paper to prevent any glue 'squeeze out' sticking to the inside of the bag and I also only veneer one side at a time with a job this big.

10 November 2012

Furry 'Friends'...Ha!

The roller and gloss paint brush have been wielded yet again in the hallway, have been cleaned, dried and put away.  The ceramic tiles in the entrance have been laid, grouted and polished...and mighty smart they look too. The stairs are awaiting the imminent arrival of the new carpet and carpet fitter next week, so things are moving on apace.

However, over coffee this morning, SWIMBO declared that a 'consultation' was required (and being of moderately sound mind, a debatable issue I know) as to the placement of pictures various which is a fair enough point.

Having agreed where they should be hung, I scurried around to find some suitable masonry nails and my trusty DIY claw hammer, after which I merrily proceeded to hang the first few...no problem there.

I then realized that I was a nail short, so I again scurried out to the 'shop, found another one, came back into the bedroom and looked round for my hammer.

Except it was gorn...vanished!  Now being a fairly sanguine, level headed sort of bloke I don't usually believe in gremlins, but I'm convinced that there's a pack of the bloody things hanging off my right shoulder (and probably the left on as well) because no matter where I looked, the hammer had vanished...disappeared!

Was it in the room...did I put it down somewhere? Nope.

Did I take it out to the 'shop whilst I was looking for that last nail?..negative!

Had I left it by my DIY indoors tool box, or maybe put it back?..dry hole!

A bit despondently I went upstairs to the bedroom for a final look round...and there was my hammer, lying on the bed.  Now I know it wasn't there ten minutes ago, because I looked, so what happened?
Personally, I'm convinced that my 'furry friends'...

....had secreted it somewhere when I put it down and then whilst I was out in the 'shop they miraculously made it re-appear.

Now no doubt, you're sniggering to yourself (and I don't blame you...has the Bloke finally lost it?) but the odd thing is...

...this isn't the first time it's happened.

05 November 2012

Marking Gauges

Sometimes you get jobs in the 'shop that niggle...this was one of them.  For several years I've been using a fairly simple Japanese marking gauge  from Classic Hand Tools, alas no longer available.  The long stock and wide stem, coupled with true cutting knife blade almost guarantees to make them foolproof, but in addition, the blade has around a 10deg 'toe-in' which in use draws the stock tight against the workpiece, so none of those dreaded 'tram lines'

As I had a number of oddly assorted gauges apart from this one, I reckoned a couple of new ones, using the original as a pattern might be a 'good thing'.

I started by making the bolts and silver soldered an oddment of steel into a slot in the ends...

...and then came the preparation of the material (English Oak in this case and not the original Japanese White Oak) followed by some careful routing of the slots...a 12mm one for the stem and a 4mm slot across the grain to contain the 6mm captive square nut.

A little shaping was the next little job, using the original stock as a template and then a 7mm hole was drilled down the grain for the bolt.  The next bit proved the hardest...how the hell to you make a narrow slot across the grain for the blade?

Needle file?...nope, too wide.  Warding file?...same again, too wide. You can see my abortive attempts on the trial piece of oak on the left.  Eventually, after a bit of head scratching...

...I ground down a hacksaw blade and used it to make the tapered (through the thickness) slot, the 'toe-in' can clearly be seen in the pic.  I used a couple of bits of the same blade to make the tapered blades and ground them to profile using the Tormek and a high speed grinder, so that they just tapped in with around 2mm of the cutter proud on the underside.

The backs of the stems were also rounded over to fit the routed slot in the stem.

The final bit of metalwork were two 'U' shaped pressure brackets made from...

...a couple of oddments of mild steel.  With a few passes of a smoother and the sharp corners knocked off with a block plane, the completed gauges sit...

...very well along side the original Japanese one.

So, if you're in the market for a simple gauge that really does work a treat, spend a few hours knocking up a couple of these, you won't regret it!

31 October 2012

The Good Stuff...

Normally, I wouldn't make to much fuss about sandpaper.  After all, it's just sandpaper and I don't really give it much thought...pick a few bits out the rack, wrap it round a cork block and away I go.  For years, I've been using a paper that I 'acquired' from an employer when I managed to secrete a few sheets into my bag before I was ignominiously shown the door...that employer, by the way, has gone bust!

However, it's only when I tried something else did I realise that my original sandpaper was the best thing since bread was first sliced...it cuts cleanly, very rapidly, doesn't clog and lasts forever.  In fact, I've never come across anything quite so good and I've tried loads of different sorts.

My meagre stocks though, were getting perilously low, so when I went to Pete Sefton's bash in July of this year, I took a few sheets along to my good pal Matt Platt, who along with the elves, runs Workshop Heaven.  I asked Matt to evaluate the sandpaper in the quiet of his own 'shop and he was so impressed, it's now stocked.

So what is this wondrous stuff?..it's this!

Buy some, use it.

Be impressed.

24 October 2012

Ditheration and Ponderations...

I don'k know how anybody else goes about designing their work, but lately I've taken a distinctly Krenovian approach to the task and once I've got the vague outlines of a job, I go and get all the wood out, stick it all over the 'shop and have a good think, usually armed with a tape measure, calculator  and a nice brew...

Such was the case this afternoon.  If you recollect, I recently finished a wall hung cabinet in English Walnut so I needed to start to think about something else to do...but this isn't the next job, it's the one after, the next project can be seen 'in stick' under the bench just next to the AirPress pump.

An idea has slowly been taking shape in the 'pea soup' upstairs, based on an slightly oriental idea that I've incorporated into a couple of projects in the past.  Around July '10 I finished a Media Unit, where the top and bottom were slabs with rounded edges, capped with ebony.  Imagine these two now tipped vertically (but a bit skinnier) and a cabinet slung between them.  Alan  Peters showed something similar in this rather excellent book, 'Cabinet Making - the Professional Approach' so that's the basis of this design.

The two long boards of Wych Elm shown will be sliced up for the side veneers and there may, just maybe mind you, be enough for the back panel, plus a bit extra using the little bit on the left (suitably sliced up of course)

The front panel could be made from the book-matched pair of boards shown...

...above, with the stiles shown in place (again a book-matched pair) and the lump of elm for the door rails and back panel shown as well.  Have a close look at the grain as it's curving upwards towards the corners.  I'm thinking that this ought to look quite good...

...but it's not Wych Elm, just elm 'ordinarie' (hence a different colour) so do I use it?... or try and and find something else amongst my small stash?  There may be a bit left over once I've cut all the veneer...hopefully.

Looking on the bright side, I've got all the timber and it's all nice and dry (vital for elm, as it'll twist and turn at the drop of a hat)

On the other hand, I also have plans to make a small, wall mounted bow-fronted cabinet in ash and I definitely haven't got enough of that, so a trip to Yandles seems on the cards...

Decisions, decisions...

19 October 2012


Many moons ago, in a different life when I used to work briefly as a cabinet-maker, I worked for an outfit that used a very, very nice little bit of kit for veneering...the AirPress, so I was determined that when I eventually set up my own 'shop, which happened few years later, this item was going to be on my 'must buy' list.

And so it turned out.

The AirPress itself is an excellent piece of kit and the vacuum pump has provided ten years of faultless service...which is more than can be said for the plastic bags.  In themselves, they're robust and pretty thick, but the big fault is that they're seam welded along the edges, which is totally and utterly bloody useless!

Over the years, I've forgotten how many times I've had to 'repair' the seam where it's split...in fact it's almost impossible to fix it permanently as the nature of the plastic means that it's slightly greasy, so any adhesive tape (even insulating tape, which is meant to go round PVC cable) simply won't stick and after a while degenerates into a sticky, slimy 'goo' that needs to be removed with white spirit.

I repaired it yesterday as I had a little bit of veneering to do, so no doubt it'll have to be done yet again in a couple of months time.

No peace for the wicked...onwards and upwards.

15 October 2012


Some time ago, my good pal Mike Huntley set up the Japanese Tool Study Group, with the aim of meeting once a month for a good natter on all things Japanese, but more especially to do with tools.  Mike is shown in the pic below with Andy Ryalls, co-owner of Phoenix Oak Framing, based in a very large 'shop close to where I live.  Mike and Andy (green fleece) are here shown discussing a setting block used for making Japanese saws.  The sides are swaged, the top is domed and each edge has a slightly different bevel on it for setting the teeth...  

...used, for example, on a cross-cut dōzuki like the one shown below. 

I'm shown in the pic below giving it a little 'test drive'.  Until you've tried a handmade Japanese saw, you really have no idea what a dream it is to use one.  Every other saw I've ever used is distinctly 'clunky' in comparison, so I want one!

Hang on a 'mo though!  This one's a cross-cut and then I'd also need one to rip along the grain.  At 23,000JPY, or nearly £200 each, I think I'll have a re-think...

...and then I'd have to learn how to sharpen and set one, which is a whole new bucket of worms and well above my pay grade!

I also gave a short demo on using the 3M films from Workshop Heaven as an alternative to using waterstones, as well as playing around with a new Veritas PM-V11blade fitted into my LV jack that can be seen on the bench.  At the moment, it's probably the only one of it's kind in the country.

All told, a very pleasant afternoon was had by all

07 October 2012

The Mask Cabinet

It's taken a lot of making, but it's finally finished.

What's made it particularly awkward is that most or all of the surfaces aren't flush...they overlap by 3mm  which added a bit of visual interest, but at the same time has made it about three times more bloody difficult to make that it needed to be.

In addition, these corner stiles set at 45deg meant that there were also a total of sixteen internal mitres...

...that had to be shot in with a shoulder plane and then to top it all off, the chamfers on the ends had to be very carefully cut with a chisel.  If your'e wondering, the white thing on the back panel is a 'sticky' hook to hold one of the masks.

The cabinet has been located onto the wall with a pair of sheet steel hanging brackets cunningly set underneath the rear corner stile, so when it's up on the wall, nothing will be seen.

With the door open, you can see both the 'sticky' hooks and the Krenovian door catch.

The final shot shows the cabinet 'in situ' on the wall, with the little handle...

...turned in African Blackwood.  The masks were a very surprise Christmas present from No1 son who bought them in Venice at Tragicomica last September and by an absolute miracle managed to get them back to the UK in his back-pack without mangling them, so 10/10 to Gareth! 

11 September 2012

'La Belle France'

Having finished the little oak cabinet, I've taken up the reigns on 'Mask Cabinet' once again, which at this point is getting near to completion.

The pic shows the cabinet on a stand dry cramped, with a couple of tourniquets round the top and bottom to tighten up the mitres on the corners, so the next thing to do will be  to glue the door together...easy enough to make with some 6mm Dominos at the corners.  Tricky to mark out the position of the Doms though as I needed to get a snug fit in the opening without taking too much off the doors for clearance.

However, all this is going to come to a bit of a halt for ten days as I'm off to 'la belle France' to see the 'D' day invasion beaches and then we're driving down to the Dordogne to stay with an old college pal.

Should be an interesting trip...

04 September 2012

Little Cabinet

This little cabinet has been completed now and didn't really present too many problems, especially with fitting the hinges.

The door swings open quite well to clear the carcase (as it should do) so having done this I feel a lot more confident to sort out the hinges on the 'Mask Cabinet' as I'm going to have to fit exactly the same type.

03 September 2012

Knife Edge...

I originally thought that this was going to be a nightmare as if there's one thing I detest above all others, it's fitting hinges!..however, I was surprised to find that this wasn't the case.  The instructions provided by Lee Valley are very good and emphasise that accuracy is key.  The most important thing to do is to shoot the door in so that the 'shadow gap' all round is equal to the thickness of the steel spacing washer 'twixt the leaves...which conveniently just happens to be .6mm or the thickness of a piece of veneer.

Gauges can be set to mark off the edges of the hinge after which the easiest way to make the shallow mortice is to use a 10mm cutter on the router table...

...after which it's a fairly easy prospect to square out the hole and fit the hinge.

The carcase is then marked out with the offset point and leaf extremity marked (red arrows) with a bit of .6mm veneer as a shim and then it's back to the router table.

With the second set of mortice's cut, there's a bit more chisel work to fit the other part of the hinge, after which...

...the complete door can be offered up dry.  You can see here that the closing edge needs a smidge taken off, no more than a couple of shavings in order to...

...see the door fitting cosily with the hinges in place (but not screwed in yet)

The only real disadvantage of these offset knife hinges is that you have to knock the carcase apart a minimum of three times to fit them and each time it's reassembled it has to go back exactly as before, so if your jointing isn't quite up to scratch....

25 August 2012

Cabinet Conundrum

I knew that fitting these offset knife hinges was going to be tricky, so I'm rather glad that the opportunity has presented itself to have a little practise...and even better, to get paid for it!

I cobbled together some oddments of oak, edged jointed them and made a small cabinet carcase, complete with a couple of shelves...the housings for them can be seen.  The routed slot for the door catch can also be seen in the bottom rhs.

It appears that the carcase needs to be pulled up exactly to the shoulder lines and dead square, so that the door can be 'shot' in precisely to the opening.  The clearance for the door is then planed which, (according to the instructions,) is equal all round to the thickness of the washer 'twixt the two halves of the hinge.

Once the door has been made and fitted, the cabinet can then be knocked apart and the shallow mortices marked and cut, ready to receive the hinges as it's impossible to do it when it's been glued.

What occurred to me though is that there may be a slight problem of short grain because the construction is conventional through dovetails...and right where the hinge is let into the bottom and top will be a dovetail socket!  It remains to be seen whether or not this will be the case, but I suspect that my small tins of filler will have to be consulted once it's been glued.

The door components have been 'shot' in, so the next job is to prepare the grooves for the fielded panel and then use the Domino to make the joints.  The back will be a simple veneered panel set into a rebate once the shelves are in place

Onwards and upwards...

16 August 2012

Japan XIV - Lost in Translation

Frequent perusers of the Blokeblog will have gathered by now that I spent a few weeks earlier in May touring central Japan, the details of which are well documented.  One of the first events of that epic trip was to visit one of the few remaining professional Japanese swordsmiths, Masahira Fujiyasu-san and his disciple, Nakanishi-san.

That occasion was unquestionably eventful...it's not every day that you can take part in the forging process of a Japanese sword, though over lunch it transpired that Fujiyasu-san also produced smaller 'Kozuka' katana, which are intended to be used as a paper knife, but were originally used as throwing weapons and fitted into the saya of the wakazashi.   I enquired about the cost of buying one of these knives and was told by Yasuhiko Ota-san, our guide and interpreter for the day, that they were roughly £5000, or the Japanese yen equivalent...clearly far too much.

A little dismayed, we went back to our delicious lunch and continued the discussion on some of the finer points of sword making...or as much as I could understand.  At the end of the day, we climbed into the taxi to catch the Shinkansen back to Toyko for the rest of our holiday, always regretting that we didn't have a little 'Kozuka' katana tucked carefully away in one of our bags.

But that's not the end of the story.

Returning to the UK, Ota-san sent us some of his pictures of the day and on thanking him for them, I enquired again how much any souvenirs might be, knowing that there were a selection of very small knives and of course, the little katana.

When the reply came, I realised that we had interpreted the original price incorrectly...we were out by a factor of 10!  Further emails followed over the course of the next few weeks so that yesterday a small package from Japan dropped onto the front door mat and inside...

...wrapped in it's yellow cloth, was the little 'Kozuka' katana.

The blade is true sword steel, the front face of which has been left with a textured finish onto which has been engraved part of an ancient Japanese poem.  I was also delighted to see that the highly polished back has a simple hamon, clearly visible when it's held up to the light. 

Even better, Masahiro Fujiyasu-san's stamp and signature...

...is clear to see on the reverse of the saya, or scabbard.

It's virtually impossible to own a full size, professionally made sword (indeed it's illegal now to import them into the UK without a special licence) so this is without doubt the closest that I'm ever going to get.