30 April 2012

Spiny Stuff...and the Orient!

Exactly a month ago, SWIMBO and I visited one of our offspring in Ixworth and had a very pleasant and slightly inebriated weekend, during the course of which and over one of several steins of Greene King Abbot, I suggested to Megan's landlady that she might like to have 'a little something' from the workshop.

After a trip to Yandles last weekend, I found a suitable lump of decent English Walnut in the wood shed and spent some time last week on my new lathe spinning this up into a small bowl (about 190mm dia)

If the post comes at the same time as ours,  I suspect that Mary will be opening the box round about now...

This will be the last entry of the Blokeblog for several weeks as Thursday morning at 0700 will see us departing on our merry way for very distant shores...

... Japan!

23 April 2012

Ahh, Bond...'For Your Eyes Only'

Having just finished off one project a few days ago, which has been stamped TS, I've just this minute finished off another one, which is again... Most Secret and as is the nature of these things, can only be revealed in thirty years (or should it be fifty?) when the mandarins at the Home Office tell me that national security won't be compromised....which means that you, dear peruser of this blog, won't see any pics for at least a couple of months!

Suffice to say though, that it's not too shabby and I hope the recipient (as in the first little item) will appreciate it.

In order to find the material for this little trinket, SWIMBO and I paid a visit to Yandles where I spent a pleasant half-hour (spending any longer was fraught with danger, as there was a baleful glow developing...) browsing in the wood shed.  Most of what was there in board form (and I was after some more elm) was plentiful, but of dubious quality. Last year at one of the shows, I came away with a pristine board that was about 75mm thick...no shakes, knots, splits or even worm, but this time even picking over the boards there wasn't much that was worth having, until...

...I turned over one or two boards in a bin and came across a couple of shortish lengths of air dried, quarter sawn English Oak, each around 30mm thick.  One of the boards was very old where one end was gnarled and split, but both cleaned up beautifully and have now been salted away in the timber store at home.

Much of what is in the wood shed at Yandles can tend to be a bit poor and sub-standard, but just occasionally, you can find a gem...

18 April 2012

The Wood Warped!

Those at the front who've been paying attention will have noticed that there's going to be another cabinet in the offing soon, this one made from some rather spectacular English Walnut recently acquired.

Being a bit of a parsimonious soul, I thought I'd try and get the bits and pieces out of the thickness of one board that happened to be 28mm thick...I needed to finish at 26mm so I thought I might just get away with it, which, as it happened, proved a mistake because....

....several bits of timber that I needed to be straight, decided, in their infinite wisdom, that they weren't going to be.

Bugger!  However, all is not lost because the bits shown in the first two pics are almost exactly the right size for picture frames and as we're off to Japan very shortly and SWIMBO would like some woodblock prints, I can see that I'm going to be a bit busy in that department when we get back.

The back though, for this cabinet is the rather nice piece of walnut shown on the left (which was part of my 'Final Job' piece at college in the 70's) and there's just enough room to mount the two Venetian masks, but in fact if you look closely, you'll see that I've glued a couple of strips onto the edges which will eventually form the tongues for the framed back panel.

Having had bits of this walnut bend on me, I had no option but to hoick out another board and cut some thicker, larger sections, which can be seen in the pic below on the bottom section of the rack...

...but hang on just a cotton-pickin' minute I can hear you chundering..."what's he got on the top rack?"

The answer to that question is a lot more walnut for another cabinet, this time mounted on a floor stand.  The pic below...

...shows some of the component parts of it.  The two bits on the left will form part of the back panel and the bits on the right are the panels for the doors, still from the 'Final Job' piece of 1978.

What I've neglected to mention thus far is that the stand is going to be made from teak, every single piece of which will have to be planed by hand, meaning that plane irons will have to be sharpened every five minutes.

Hell's teeth...what have I let myself in for?

15 April 2012

Lean and Green..but Mean?

There's been the usual thread recently on UKWorkshop about sharpening, with particular respect this time to the use of strops and stropping compounds thereof.  I have to say that after seeing these sorts of threads appearing 'ad nauseum' time and again, it all gets very predictable and to be frank...a bit boring.

However, after browsing through pages and pages of the stuff, I decided to change my existing leather stop and substitute a block of hard maple, the theory being that the compressible leather slightly 'dubs' or rounds over the edge, whereas a block of hardwood...won't.  That's the theory at least.

The sharpening set up is shown, with the first three 3M films out of the shot (the 30, 15 and 5 micron) with the final 1 micron film in the pic.  Blades are set up in my Kell III and honed at 30 degrees using a registration board (also shown), with the infamous 'Ruler Trick' being performed on the back of the blade.  This ensures that only around a mm is polished, rather than the whole of the back.

So the routine is thus... a few swipes on the 30, 15 and 5 films followed by several passes on the 1 micron film.  Then out of the Kell and a couple of strokes on the maple strop, then back onto the 1micron film for the 'ruler trick'...and the sequence is repeated a couple of times.  The 'strop' has been charged with Vaseline for a bit of lubrication and then a sprinkling of neat Chromium Dioxide powder has been rubbed in...hence the colouration and dainty finger swirls!

The edge produced is certainly pretty mean and razor sharp (and probably better that that using a leather strop) but as with all these things, it's very subjective and only a detailed microscopic analysis of the edge (which again, to be frank, is getting very nerdish...and I'm a woodworker, for Pete's sake!) would show any differences.

But there are down sides, not least of which is cleaning up afterwards...

...as it give a whole new meaning to the term 'Green Fingers'

13 April 2012

Ducking & Diving...or Scraping & Driving?

Back before Christmas, just prior to retirement,  I paid a visit to Axminster and amongst a very large order placed on the day, I decided to tack onto the end of it a couple of LN scraper planes, the big 112 shown above and the smaller 212.  Not knowing whether I'd get on with them, I decided to get a couple anyway just to add to the 'collection' of planes...I didn't pay anything like full price for them, so they were something of a bargain.

No matter what I did though, I couldn't get the bloody things to work, they just didn't want to make any shavings!  Then I had on of my all too rare brain waves (or should that be aches?) and decided to have a look at my existing Veritas No 80, which I'd bought a few years ago.  The proverbial penny then dropped  like a large, lead weight and it became crystal clear that the LN planes needed adjustment...hence the reason for the two rather large knurled brass knobs just behind the cutter.  By visually comparing the fixed angle of the Veritas and adjusting the LN to the same, it then became a lot easier to get some wispy shavings off them.

Sharpening the blade wasn't too difficult either because by getting hold of one of Axminter's large honing guides and messing about with the thing, I was able to fit the LN 112 blade, which at just under 75mm wide didn't quite fit the standard guide...cunning or what?  I even found that with subtle finger pressure I could produce a slightly cambered blade, which is a bonus.
So now I could easily hone the required 45deg bevel on the 3M films and then turn the hook.  The results can be seen in the pic...and that's the infamous 'Wood from Hell' that's coming in for a bit of grief!

The little 'driver above was something I knocked up in a spare hour from an oddment of English Walnut and a 60mm magnetic bit holder, but I haven't got it any more.  In my unbounded enthusiasm, I gave it to my daughter the other weekend, so it's now residing in Ixwoth.  Such was the state of her existing Philips thing...I hesitate to call it a screwdriver as it looked like the end had been mangled in a meat grinder, that I took pity on her.

It just means now that I'll have to spend yet another hour on the lathe and make one more for myself as there's a distinct and unhealthy gap on the 'Tool Wall'

Such is life, mustn't crumble...though now I've got to sixty...

11 April 2012

Indentation, the deux

I received an email from Ian at the Chalco Stamp and Die Co with the 'RJS' stamp almost finished.  I sent him a pic of the sort of thing I was after and left it up  to him to interpret the letter spacings and serifs,  where I think he's made a great job.

This is the result, which I have to say, is going to look pretty classy when it's stamped onto my pieces.  It just needs to be finished off and then sent to be hardened.

05 April 2012


As I indicated in the last Blog entry, Alyson and I spent the weekend at my daughter's lodgings in Ixworth, Suffolk around 8 miles from Bury St.Edmunds.  The three pics above show the main street through the village, with the usual confection of 16th century, pastel and pink, half-timbered houses.   Megan's house (Beech Cottage) can just be seen in the centre-right of the first picture, in fact our pale blue Toyota Aygo can just be seen with it's rear end poking out of the driveway.

Beech Cottage is a large, rambling place dating from the late 16th century, along with most of the other houses along the main road.  What was incredible though was that Mary (her landlady) aided and abetted by Megan, had totally renovated the guest room where we stayed...

....and had deliberately revealed the original 'wattle and daub' infill shown above. As my daughter is an archaeologist, she took some photo's of it and her colleagues confirmed the age...this is the first time that it's been uncovered in over 400 years and it's been so well preserved, it looks like it's been done yesterday.  The intention is to eventually cover the panel with a piece of glass so that all who stay in the room will be able to marvel at it.

The weekend was a real success including (after a really excellent meal prepared by Megs) the session down the pub in the evening...six pints of Greene King 'Abbot' still manages to slip down without too much effort.

It was the red wine round the farmhouse table later that did the damage...that and staying up till 4.30 in the morning.

Will I ever learn?

Probably not... c'est la guerre!

02 April 2012


The weekend just gone was spent with my daughter in Bury St.Edmunds, Suffolk and as is usual in these matters, the car was loaded with 'goods assorted, daughter for the use of',  one of which happened to be a very large, solid oak, octagonal coffee table that I'd given her some time ago when it became surplus to our needs.

I decided that I'd try and mark the underside with my initials and the date when it was made which was around 1990, but it's very difficult to be sure as it was fair while ago and the all too rapid passage of the years tends to blur exact details.  To cut a long story sideways, I used a 3mm chisel to carve out my initials (RJS) and I added the date in Roman numerals, both of which proved singularly unsuccessful...which is about par!

The problem is that as the blade cuts into the surface, it creates pockets of 'short grain' where the timber just collapses or lifts off (for instance, the centre of the letter 'R') so that the whole thing just looks like a bit of a dogs dinner at the end.

As I normally like to mark my stuff anyway I've tried a number of ways over the years from a custom made and engraved, circular brass disc (very classy but a bit spendy on the pockets) to carving with a small 'U' shaped gouge, which turned out even more disastrous than using a chisel, so...... the bullet has at last been chomped on and I've invested a princely sum in a set of Axminster letter punches (for the Roman numerals bit) together with a posh and rather distinguished monogram of my initials, set within an oval from the Chalco Stamp & Die Company which sounds like it's been lifted straight out of the Wild West...I'm starting to get visions of Monument Valley, Wells Fargo,  Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne!

With any luck, this final little touch ought to be the finishing detail to my sawdusty efforts, that's with the proviso that they're actually fit for stamping and not stamping on...