Friday, 31 May 2013

Pimp Your Fret Saw

A very kind Canadian customer sent me a replacement handle for my Knew Concepts fret saw. It is larger, much heavier and beautifully made in Cocobolo.  You can check out his blog here
Richard is not interested in selling these but you can buy similar replacement handles from that is if you afford them, they cost more than the saw itself! Knew Concepts should put better handles on their saws considering their price tag but you can always make your own out the wood of your choice.

A close up of the Cocobolo handle.
A while ago Richard made this lovely plane adjusting hammer, it's nicely balanced, does a great job and is my hammer of choice.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Views of Wonderful Cornwall

Now I know this is not a woody post, but I couldn't leave my trip to the West Country without some scenic shots. The picture above is the harbour at Porthleven, a lovely place combining small scale commercial fishing with tourism. There are two fine restaurants there, Kot Kai and the very friendly Sea Drift Cafe.

This is Newquay which is a strong tourist town famed for it's surfing and night life. I'm way too old to partake in either of these pursuits! The netting was to keep the seagulls away and it did a great job.

Above is Padstow a lovely town with sandy beaches on both sides of the Camel estuary. Rick Stein has a handful of restaurants, a cookery school, a delicatessen and a fish and chip shop here, all in a town of just 3,100 people! No wonder they have nick named it Padstein!!

This is St Ives which has long been a magnet for artists. Best to leave your car at the top of the hill and walk, the tiny streets are barely wide enough for a car never mind all the tourists. Once you get down to the beach it's well worth it.

Here's St Michaels Mount, not as famous as the French one but still a lovely sight. Shame about the grey day. At low tide you can walk across the sand, very relaxing.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures, it's back to work for me now.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Antique Tool Dealers in Devon

The Tool Box in Colyton near Seaton is in a tucked away but very picturesque spot, it's only 10 minutes away from Axminster Tools and well worth a visit.

David is the owner (left)  and his speciality is model engineering. I interrupted what looked like a lengthy chat by two enthusiasts which was way over my head.

Despite David's expertise there is far more woodworking than engineering tools and I've picked up some nice stuff over the years.

Plenty of standard planes and below some fine quality engineering lathes.

In the locked glass cabinet, where all thee nice stuff resides, I found this delightful Scottish smoother. Virtually all these planes were user made from castings but this one had Galloway Edinburgh stamped on the lever cap. I believe this to be a dealer rather than a maker, but it's still a rare one.

I also found this skew mouth shoulder plane by Spiers from their later period. It has the script mark logo stamped on the good length blade. After a bit of haggling they were both mine.

I also called in at the Quay Antique Centre at Topsham which is near Exeter. They have a couple of stalls selling tools and is worth checking out if you're anywhere near.

It's arranged on three floors and is quite a place.

I bought a set of matching Addis carving chisels along with a dinky jewellers hammer and a Stanley 99 side rebate for a very reasonable £72.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Devon Guild of Craftsmen

On my trip to the West Country I called in to the shop/gallery of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey. The picture above shows one of a number of beautifully laid out rooms that make up the fantastic old water mill.

This fine low rocker by John Luff really caught my eye, beautifully made and I'm sure very comfortable. It was priced at £1,500.

Another fine chair this time by Christian O'Reilly as is the box below. The chair cost £1,890

The simple lines of this box in brown oak gave it a very understated but quality feel. Priced at £775 it was superbly made and finished.

Below is another chair this time by David Savage at £1,400. I really like this chair but a simple picture doesn't do it justice you need to see it in the flesh and on the move. I know David doesn't like his work being photographed, very ungenerous, but I did ask permission before taking any of these shots.

The last piece to catch my eye was this side table in ash and scorched ash by Guy Martin. Again another example of fine design and proportion, yours for £1,350.
If you're ever down this way this gallery is well worth a visit, there's plenty more craft items apart from the great selection of furniture.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Antique Tools at Bob's Tool Box in Cornwall.

I've been in Cornwall this week and no trip to this lovely county would be complete without a trip to Bob's Tool Box in Liskeard. It's situated in a couple of shops / sheds by the cattle market and he's always there on a Thursday, a good day to call!

Here's Bob helping out a customer, he's been working with wood tools all his life and knows his stuff. I heard plenty of the local Cornish accent on my visit but not from Bob, he's Scottish. Once we have a nice spring day the shorts come out and stay out no matter how cold it gets and today's bracing wind must have been a bit of a challenge on his knee caps, but then coming from Scotland (kilts and all) he used to it.  There are 3 or 4 rooms packed with stuff, if you only look round once you'll miss so much.

I unearthed this super large Moxon vice (or so I thought). Bob explained it was actually a massive book press and the two grooves in the left hand jaw of the picture were used to guide a special wooden plane to create the nice even curve to the pages of a closed old book, fascinating.
Book press or not it would still make a great Moxon vice!

Now I knew what this was, an old coopers plane, a monster to lift. At nearly 6' long you'd have to be superman to enjoy using this, except of course the plane is stationary with one end propped up on a tripod and the barrel staves are run across the plane.

The blade is 4" wide and most were blacksmith made with no name stamp. This one was by Isaac Greaves and was made from Electro Orasic Steel, more investigation into that needed, although Bob said he had come across this steel before.

Here are some shots from inside the shops.

These are my purchases, a fine Matheison 1" shoulder plane, a smoother stamped J. Bruford Plymouth, a tool dealer but obviously made by Slater and a very pretty unnamed chariot plane.

I also picked up a few plane irons the most interesting of which were these two. The round topped iron is well stamped Samuel Newbold, I'm sure this is early but will need to look it up when I get home. The other is a very early Ward iron with matching chipbreaker.

The nicest tool I bought was this surgeons saw. Bob tempted me as I was walking out, now I know nothing about these but can recognise a quality tool when I see one. It has an old Indian rosewood pistol grip handle and the hole is angle to suit right handed use, it's the most comfortable saw I've ever held. The blade is original and there is no overall damage but I suspect the two screws holding the blade are replacements.
The teeth are all in good order but a long way from sharp, I would't have liked to have been the last person this saw was used on!

Here's a shot of the tensioning screw, they don't make them like that any more!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Thicknessing Jig For Hand Planes

A few days ago a customer contacted me regarding a jig for hand planing to exact thickness, in this case box sides. This is the option he chose which has the plane riding on two narrow edges which are just outside the cutting area of the blade, so restricting the depth of cut and giving a consistent even thickness. The depth can be shimmed to suit different thickness's and you can build the jig to any length. The only restriction is the width of your plane blade.
The results below speak for themselves, a very useful and easy to make (I like those!) little jig. Thanks for the pictures Barry.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Instrument Making in Canada.

A nice detailed shot of a violin (I think!) with curves everywhere. This is one (of many) areas of woodworking I've never tried and looking at it I wouldn't know where to start. I suppose like any complicated project it's just made up of lots of small, easier parts. A bit like life really.

Chris has one of my jointer planes on order and it looks as if it will be in exalted company, a fine and very usable mitre plane by Bill Carter and a high angle smoother by Sauer and Steiner. My Guess is he probably has a few more fine planes tucked away.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Hand Plane Tuning, Read This!

Last weekend I taught a course at West Dean College. There were 8 in the class which is enough and we had a good time as well as plenty of good food. Here is Scots Jim planing down his birds eye maple box panel.
On the first day we dealt with plane tuning which involved truing up the sole and one side of each plane as well as preparing and sharpening the blade. What was really interesting was just how much work was needed on the sole flattening. The planes brought to the course were 4 Stanleys, 3 Cliftons and 1 Record, varying between a number 5 and 7 in size. None were flat enough to be usable and the worst ones were the 3 Cliftons, which was a big surprise considering the high price tag. Even when the Cliftons were tuned and sharp they didn't really 'sing' like the others. In fairness a 4th Clifton was brought in on the second day and this was much flatter, so maybe things have improved over time.
When I first referred to a plane 'singing' no one seemed to know what I meant, by the end of day one everyone knew! If you want to hear planes singing watch this video
Another plane brought in on the second day was a Veritas 2" smoother and this was noticeably not flat with high spots on the front and back, not good!

Here is Jim (number 2) planing his top sitting down, the plane needs to be sharp to do that in hard maple. Duncan, pictured below, brought in a Stanley 5 1/2, a good sized plane for which he had bought a replacement Lie Nielsen blade. What he hadn't realised was that the all Stanley 5 1/2 's before the second world war had 2 1/4" blades so the 2 3/8" blade was over sized. 15 minutes of linishing, including frequent breaks to prevent overheating, soon had the blade fitting.
Another Stanley was also brought in which had been surface ground by Ray Isles, now you would suppose this would have been perfect, working to engineering tolerances but when we ran it over the granite surface plate it revealled a high spot right behing the mouth which is the worst place possible. It transpired that before he does the grinding the blade, frog and handles are all removed which means the plane is not under working tension, hence the problem.
I've been having discussions with Kevin Ireland from Popular Woodworking in the US about the effects of pressure from the lever cap on the sole of the plane. I always like to have the lever cap extra tight when flattening the sole so that any relaxation of that tension will create a tiny hollow in that crucial area behind the blade. This is the same principal the Japanese use when dressing the soles of their wooden planes.

Day two of the course was spent making a mitred picture frame, edge jointing using a 90 degree fence as well as the shooting board and making the box pictured below. This involved shooting the corners on a donkeys ear shooting attachment, planing the top and bottom flat and down to fit the grooves and fitting the mitred lining.

Most people got the box assembled and separated on the band saw and Duncan managed to complete his, doing a very nice job into the bargain.
Looking back on the course the champagne moment was when Curtis ploughed his box top straight through his planing stop. I then leant him my bench hook and he ploughed his way straight through that as well! He's a big strong lad and I thinks he's learnt to stop and check things if it doesn't feel right. Apart from that he did very well over the weekend.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Working in Tight Spaces, Get Smart!

A friend of mine sent me some pictures of his table saw / router set up. Utilising a common surface for more than one machine is a good way of saving space which is very important when your workshop is a one car garage.
The cross cut sled above is unusual here in the UK, nearly all our table saws have a sliding table and fence. Although sleds don't look very sophisticated and are cumbersome to lift on and off, if they are made accurately they work very well. They also have the advantage of giving a zero clearance on both sides of the cut, something you don't get with a sliding table. I have a couple of sleds which I drop into the groove on my sliding table and they are spot on.
The only down side is the need to remove the blade guard, something not recommended in the UK and certainly not allowed in commercial shops. The guard on my table saw came off the day it was delivered, it offers very little protection and just got in the way.

The double mitre sled above again is very useful if you take the time to make it accurately.
Doubling up the side table as a router table is a good idea and not too much trouble to change over functions.

Andy has a small collection of my planes nicely displayed and ready for action. They take up a minimum of space and are great for any workshop no matter how spacially challenged!