Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Thought I'd share a photo of a Mini Panel Raiser that has recently made its way to a new owner. Made from a piece of Rosewood I've been hoarding away for years, it looks pretty stunning. And the customer is rather pleased, too, so I'm a happy camper.
I have some other exotic timbered beauties on the bench at the moment - more pics to follow.... ;)
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Apologies for the lack of blog entries lately - between building planes, playing with the band and taking a small holiday the month has disappeared!
First up - planes. Moving Fillisters are the current fave - I've shipped two and have a few more underway in a selection of timbers. Pics of some special planes coming soon!
I recently made a Coffin Smoother for Richard Maguire, maker of fine workbenches. He wanted the plane made with an early 18C style iron with the rounded top, which I was happy to oblige. If you would like your plane with a similar iron just let me know when you place the order - no extra charge for this.
I've also been making plane irons for customers - see the photo of a replacement iron for an infill shoulder plane. The original iron has seen some serious use and was completely used up - I was able to make a replacement for the customer which gives his plane another lifetime of use. If you need a replacement iron for a special plane or if you are thinking of building your own plane then drop me an email - I can make you a high carbon steel blade to pretty much any dimension.
Finding a little spare time in the workshop isn't easy when you are trying to be self-disciplined, but I've managed to do a little work on some projects. I've started a Maloof style rocking chair, which is a project I've always wanted to attempt. While in the States the other month I was able to get my hands on a set of plans and a DVD - this set is now available from Classic Hand Tools in the UK. I've got the chairs seat made up and the main components cut out - this week I intend to get the leg joints cut so I can fit them to the seat. I'll get some photo's taken once it looks like a chair :)
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Friday, August 06, 2010
Since my return from the States I've been back at the bench, beavering away at the batch of planes. I've also had some interesting ideas for new models, and will be showing some prototypes over the next few weeks.
First up - a customer wanted me to build him a smoother using an old toothing blade that he supplied. I was quite happy to do this and was looking forward to using it - while at the Lie-Nielsen factory I had opportunity to use their #62 with a toothed blade to flatten some gnarly stock.
I'm pleased to say it came out very nicely and hope to introduce my own toothing plane model in the near future.
I've also shipped another of my flagship model, the PPA5. This one again in African Blackwood, a beautiful and dense timber. I am now out of any suitable large pieces of this timber, so if anyone knows of a UK supplier I would be very grateful.
The "Festival Of The Tree" at Westonbirt is help at the end of August - I'll there over the four days demonstrating my planes and also giving a talk in the Masterclass tent. So if you are attending please drop on by and say hello!
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I’ve always wanted to make the journey to the Lie-Nielsen factory in Warren, Maine – it’s been a dream of mine since I’ve been into woodworking. And while I have met Tom Lie-Nielsen a few times at various woodworking events it’s taken until now for me to realize that dream of a “factory tour”.
So – my trip was multi-faceted. First, a tour of the factory to see how everything was made, seeing the journey from raw materials to the completed tools being packed and shipped. Next a few days training on-site (more on this later) and finally to demonstrate my planes at the open day weekend at the factory, topped off with a Lobster bake!
We were staying in Portland, a town about 60 miles south of the toolworks location. So each day started with a coffee and a drive through the beautiful Maine countryside. The factory appears just off the main road in picturesque fashion, and we turn in and park up. The building itself has been extended many times as the company has grown over the years and looked just as I imagined it. Additional buildings have been erected alongside to house more machinery and storage – these buildings were also erected by the staff. During my many chats with staff members it was obvious how proud they were of the facility and the work they do.
We were given a tour of the facility, which has separate areas for storage, tool machining, saw making, handle manufacture, finishing and polishing, blade manufacture and packing. There is a also a handsome shop/display area with all the range of tools on display and available to try out.
Two things that stood out to me most as we were shown around were :
Each family of tools is made by a set team of makers – i.e. all block planes are made by the same team, and they have their own area complete with the tools and machinery they need. There was no “sharing” of machinery – each team had their own area and specialized in their own range of tools.
There was a huge amount of hand work involved in the making of every tool. You imagine that with modern day CNC machinery you would put raw material in one end and finished tools appear magically at the other end – this could be no further away from the truth! There was a small army of workers who specialise in particular skills, and it was quite heart-warming to see.
I was quite amazed to see the saw making shop – this had a collection of interesting machinery. Tooth cutting machines, tooth filing machines, machined modified to perform specific tasks and a man called Patrick. Patrick makes all the Lie-Nielsen hand saws and hand files and tests every single one! We were treated to a saw sharpening demonstration by Tom Lie-Nielsen (on a staggeringly hot day which took ones breath away) and shown the many steps in a saws manufacture – very low tech and definitely not the modern day super efficient production style I was expecting.
The irons for all the Lie-Nielsen planes and shaves are also made in-house. There are many steps in the manufacture, including heat treating, tempering and cryo treatment. There is a small crew of skilled workers who do this work, and throughout the week I was able to watch them at work – it was amazing how many steps were involved in the making a blade the Lie-Nielsen way and also the amount of times each individual blade was checked throughout the process, from grinding the raw blank through to the final hand lapping of the back.
We were treated to a tour of the bench making shop – this is at a separate workshop nearby. It was quite impressive to see huge amounts of maple being turned into accurate and sturdy workbenches. Shop manager Darren is a stickler for perfection and it was very enlightening to see the amount of time and care that goes into each bench.
Tom Lie-Nielsen gave us a sneak preview of many of the tools soon to be reaching production, as well as some interesting ideas he has in the pipeline. I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but there some real treats ahead!
As I mentioned earlier, I was at the factory for a few days training on too demonstrating. We had three days tuition from Deneb Puchalski , aided by the team of L-N demonstrators Alex, Lee, Curtis and Jeremy (apologies if I missed anyone!). It was very enjoyable, despite the high temperatures and humidity of the Maine summer, and I came away topped up with information, ideas and enthusiasm. Expect to see me at a woodworking show near you demonstrating these great tools soon!
The final days of my trip were the “open day” event. The factory was thrown open to the public, with tool demonstrations from Lie-Nielsen as well as other craftsmen like Michel Auriou, Chris Becksvoort, Al Breed, Kevin Drake and myself. It was a busy couple of days and it was great to meet and talk to so many passionate American woodworkers. The finale of the open day was the “Lobster Bake” – fresh Maine lobster and mussels cooked on a barbeque at the rear of the factory! Boy did that taste good (washed down with a cold beer!) A great way to end the week.
After reflecting on my trip the main thing that stood out to me was the tools – Lie-Nielsen tools are made with care and attention, with huge amounts of hand work by a hard working team of American workers. The factory was much closer in spirit to the way I work in my one-man workshop that to a modern production factory and I am amazed that they are able to sell their beautiful tools at such reasonable prices and still make a modest profit. Truly these are “heirloom” tools, tools to be proud and worthy of a place in our tool chests.
My thanks again to Tom and his wonderful staff for looking after us so well on this trip.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
I've got a fair selection of exotic timbers hoarded away in the workshop. Small pieces, not-so-small pieces and many different types. One I've been wanting to use is Partridge wood - I don't know much about it but I do know its extremely dense. And yes, it does sink in water - I've tried! Recently I made a 2 inch wide smoother for myself from this timber and was very impressed with the beautiful grain - supposedly the timber gets its name from the way the grain resembles partridge feathers. A customer called to place an order recently and mentioned this plane after seeing it in this blog. After searching through my timber store I found a single piece just big enough for a plane and wedge, so the customer was very pleased (and so was I to be using this lovely timber again).
Here's a shot of the plane before any shaping is done on the body - I cut all the important stuff first and do the fun shaping stuff when everything fits and works.
And here's a photo of the completed plane - and a sweet little thing she is too :)
I've also started another guitar project - after seeing Paul Weller in action with his trusty '60's Gibson SG I had to have one. But after finding out the price I decided to build my own. I've keeping a photo diary here on my Philsville site.
Next week sees me travelling to the States to Maine and the Lie-Nielsen factory. I'm really looking forward to this trip, a dream trip for me. Needless to say, I'll be taking plenty of photographs. And if you're attending the open day please come by my bench and say "hello!"
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Seems I've been making a few pairs of planes recently. First up are some Moulding Planes, #2 and #4 size hollow and rounds from some perfect English Beech.
Next we have a pair of Luthiers Scrub planes - these have cambered soles, both front-to-back and side-to-side. This pair are made from Pau Rosa and they are huge fun to use - you can almost make a bowl with one of these!
Back to the bench - my last piece of Partridge wood is becoming a plane.....
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Thought you might like a look at the latest pair of planes I've completed. The customer wanted something a little special for the timber and chose Rosewood - so please say hello to the Rosewood Moving Fillister and Mini Panel Raiser!
There was a lot more work involved in the finishing of the Rosewood compared to Beech, but it was well worth it as they look a million dollars (they didn't cost that though, you'll be pleased to know!)
If you would like a custom plane just drop me an email or check out my website at www.phillyplanes.co.uk for more details.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Already we're halfway through January - times flies! The new Chamfer plane is now available from our Website - it's been a very popular plane already and one that I've been using myself a lot lately. I'm building bunk beds for my daughter and it was the perfect tool for putting chamfers on the many rails and stiles.
Another new product for 2010 are "Winding Sticks". We get asked for these a lot and are pleased to be able to offer these useful tools - they allow you to check a surface for twist or "wind". Being able to plane surfaces flat and free of wind will take your woodworking to higher levels of precision, with projects that fit together perfectly instead of needing huge amounts of clamping pressure to pull them into "square".
Our Winding Sticks are made from quartersawn Paduak, a dense and stable timber. They are hand planed into perfectly matched pairs and are inlayed with mother-of-pearl center marks. A maple insert is fitted to one of the stick to make it easier to read the amount of wind. They are hand finished with shellac and come ready to use. Price is £45 plus shipping - please email me for enquiries.