Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Preparation

Hi Folks
Spent some time organising the timber for the table project. Final thickness for all parts was 48mm so after filling the bag on the dust extractor I could start choosing what goes where. Arranging the grain pattern was a lot of fun, it's amazing how you can make or break a piece by just flipping a couple of parts about.
I also made a final test piece of the corner joint. The top is 48mm thick, the sides taper to 30mm at the top edge. Obviously this makes quite some difference to the layout of the joint. What do you think? Almost as strong as a secret mitred dovetails but much quicker to produce. And very strong!
It is almost a pity to hide the joint away (the from edges of the table will not show the joint as I want clean lines) but I'll leave it at the back so there is a little evidence of my work.
I have also started plumbing in the shop for dust extraction. I usually move the dust extractor to whatever machine I'm about to use but that approach isn't always a good one when you're as lazy as me ;)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Corner Joint

Hi Folks

I've been tinkering with the design of my table again. The corner joint inparticular.

Mike W mentioned that he thought I'd be dovetailing it. but my design calls for clean, uncluttered lines and I think dovetails would be a bit "shouty"!

Originally I was going to mitre the corners and used loose tenons or a double row of biscuits. But as I machine up the raw timber needed for the design I can tell it is going to be a physically heavy piece. The old brain cells started to twitch.........

So I knocked up a test joint last night. What do you think? It goes together well, has a mitre corner but lots of glue area and is a physically tough joint. It can be batch cut on the table saw easily enough, too.

I am going to dovetail in the lower rail under the drawer. Well, it's more a panel than a rail, but with the new corner joint it will tie the piece together strongly. What do you think?



Monday, January 29, 2007

Giggle Time

Hi Folks

I've been reading a great book by Graham Blackburn entitled "Traditional Woodworking Handtools". It is a pretty good read, and for me that is important. A lot of woodworking books are full of pretty pictures but the text side of things is a little light. Sometimes there just isn't anything of substance at all. And I do like to read.....

This book is all about the tools in a traditional (read "before electricity"!) cabinetmakers tool chest. Each type of tool is discussed, how to identify, tune and use each one. And it is full of very interesting insights.

But one particular passage had me laughing out loud. On the subject of handplanes we come to this.....

"one measure of an adequately sharpened plane is that you should be able to place the plane at one end of the board, tilt the board, and watch the plane slide down the board unaided, removing a perfect shaving, feathered away to nothing at its edges as it does so."

Now this has got to be an "Old Wives Tale"tm of the highest order! Has anyone tried this?? I for one am pleased when I achieve full width, perfect shavings with both hands on the plane. To do this hands free is an achievement indeed!!

Joking aside, this really is a great book and highly recommended to the hand tool user. There are no photo's, just line drawings (by the author) and the book is just packed with useful info and anecdotes. A pleasant change to the "coffee table" books that look so good.

Best regards


Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Big Sap

Hi Folks
Well, with the workshop looking so inviting I couldn't help myself. Yes, I've started work on my new table design. Dug out all the 2 inch black walnut I had and got planing and thicknessing. And my, what did I find?
Sapwood. LOTS of sap.....
Now is this right?? When you lot by walnut do you expect it to be two thirds sapwood? I appreciate the walnut tree isn't grown for timber and that it doesn't grow to be a huge, straight tree. But come on, this is expensive timber. And I don't want to be "incorporating sapwood in an original manner" in this piece. Grrrr......
So out of 24 components, 6 of which could be mainly sapwood, I got nine. That is high wastage in anyones book!!!! After pacing the workshop and swearing mildly I tried swearing a stronger. It still didn't help though. Luckily my brain later kicked in and I realised I could glue a veneer of clear walnut onto the sappy backs of most of the components. Going to be close, though, and I may have to laminate up some one inch stock to get sap free components.
None of which has put me off. I am buzzing with excitement over this project. It has been a while since I've been real excited about making something. Sometimes you just need to "inspired"!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

All Change

Big changes at Philsville. Yes, I've been changing the workshop around. Again........
First up - the garage door. As those of you who have had the pleasure will know, I have a large double garage door at the front of my workshop. Well, it is a double garage.......;)
And, whilst giving easy access, also allows all the heat to disappear in the Winter as well as letting the wind whistle though......not perfect.
So, plan A was turned down by the Authorities (well, the Missus) So I knocked up some timber studwork around the inside of the door, stuffed it with insulation and overboarded it with 18mm water resistant chipboard. A couple of coats of white paint later and the place is transformed!
Well, after this triumph I had to dabble a little more........;)
I have now moved all the major machinery around (except the table saw). And what a huge difference it has made! It feels twice as big as it did yesterday. Amazing!
I've put some pictures here on my website for you to browse. I might even mount the Littlerat back on the wall tomorrow.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Hi Folks
Do any of you have a Tormek? I must admit I think they are very overpriced, but by Golly, they sure do work. And easily. I've always wanted to buy the planer knife jig but the cost (£108!!!) is rather steep, especially as I sold my second kidney to afford the grinder........;)
So, whilst at a Mate's workshop I noticed his Tormek and asked the question. Yes, says he, I do. Needless to say, I rode home with the jig in my car. What a decent chap he is :)
I set the Tormek up last night and had a go with my "spare" set of blades. I have two sets, the thoery being one set is sharp, in the machine, the other is blunt and sent off to the sharpeners. Off course, the second set just sit on the shelf. And the set in the machine make pretty patterns on any timber I machine.......;)
Five minutes later one set of shiny sharp blades and one very impressed Philly. What a great jig!!! I was so impressed I took the set out of the jointer and fitted the sharp ones. And then sharpened the second set. Easy!!
Now, I'm not saying you should run out and buy a planer knife jig for your Tormek. But if you (or a buddy) have a Tormek why not pool your resources and buy a jig between two or three of you. It makes the purchase price much softer and the jig is darn handy. And it works!!!
Just think, razor sharp planer knives, all the time...........
Have a good weekend,

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Hi Folks
Well, with the helpful advice on my new design idea taken to heart I've made some alterations. And it is looking good - I am so glad I've spent the time on the design instead of just breaking out the timber and making sawdust. And I had to force myself not to do that!
A trip to Yandles was duly made today with the Woodkateers in tow to purchase some more Paduak for the table. Sadly, I didn't have enough so off we went to deepest, darkest Somerset. As always, a wide and varied selection of boards was on show. After picking my way through various stuff I ended up with a lovely big board of paduak, 2.1 x 0.4 m, 50mm thick. I knew it was paduak because it was writen on the board along with the price. Went to pay and found Waka and Martin buying up the few remaining Bessey's that they had.....;)
Back at the workshop I put the paduak next to the baord I already had. I was surprised how different in colour they were but it does go much darker with time. But hang on......they look very much different. I took a few shavings and the smell gave it away. Yup, I had bought a board of Bubinga by mistake........:(
So I still don't have enough to make the design, even if I just use bubinga. I do have enough walnut in stock so maybe, maybe.......
Needless to say, I've handed in my "Timber Recognition" badge ;)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Idea

Hi Folks
Right-ho. I've spent some time on my new design idea and built some mock-up and test pieces. Changed the design and then exposed it to certain people. Then changed it again after some constructive critism (you know, "What on earth are you doing? You 've got plenty of jobs around the house to do.....")
So, here it is. A side table with fluted sides and drawer. Timber? Probably Paduak. There is a slight splay (2 degrees) to the sides.
I've been experimenting with the flutes in the sides. A carriage has been made for the router table to cut them. And I;ve extended my router table due to the length of the carriage. So I've been busy...........;)
It's funny how much the timber choice can alter the feel of a piece. I made up samples in oak and it just didn't look right. A heavy, fine grained timber is required that will take a fine polish to show off the (hopefully!) crisp detailing.
So this one should be taking shape over the next couple of months. Stay tuned......
Oh, and i've put step-by-step pics on my website for the table mats project.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Finished and Finishing

Hi Folks
Hope you had a good weekend? I managed to finish the table mats off today, spraying the final coat of lacquer just after lunch. I love spraying lacquer, it is such an easy finish to apply. Yet every time I complete a project what do I reach for?? Yup, oil or shellac......;)
After a couple of coats the job looks pretty awful. And doubt creeps in (also known as panic!). But once it dries, and that doesn't take long, it sinks down and looks 10 times better. And one of the advantages of lacquer is it dries quick. But it is not cured so is easy to sand and rub out. Then a couple of days later it fully cures and you are left with a bullet-proof finish. That shines like a mirror (if you want). I know it isn't appropriate for every project but it is worth experimenting with of you have never tried it. I use Chestnut melamine lacquer and a cheap B+Q HVLP spray gun.
Saturday the Missus had me make a tray for the bathroom cabinet. Oak lipping round some 9mm MDF, some brads and glue - Voila! Amazing how a bit of hardwood lipping transforms it into something "worth making";) I must thank Norm for that construction method.........
The new design idea is coming to life - Sketchup is a dream tool for me. I can "make" the project and then see how it looks by walking around it. Virtually, which means no timber was harmed in the planning of this project. Such a great tool, it really is worth perservering through the initial learning curve. A trip to Yandles is needed as I don't have quite enough of the chosen timber. Always the way.........

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Maine Man.....

Work on the new smoother infill is coming along well. With the sole sweated on and filed back and a little extra work on the sides it looks very promising. I started milling the frog and insides of the casting but the chuck was binding on the sides. So a longer mill bit is needed to sucessfully finish that. They are amazingly cheap compared to router cutters!
The final table mat has been veneered so am awaiting a warm day to spray the lacquer.
Had a nice little package waiting for me when I got home - some skew chisels from the 'Lil Old Tool Shop in Maine ;) Overkill??? Maybe, but they sure are nice......
I have also had a brainwave for a new project idea. I love it when the brain juices start flowing, very exciting! Expect more details as the design comes together.........
Have a good week,

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Planely Mad

Applied a finish to the wood samples from yesterday - what do you think? I was most impressed with the walnut sapwood board. It looks great! I know how I'll be disguising sap in future.......Didn't like it on cherry but the mahogany looked nice, kinda mature. And the walnut board looked deep and chocolatey. Guess I'll be keeping this dye on the shelf for future use.
Started another plane today. Yes, I couldn't resist it ;) It is a Norris style coffin smoother. I cleaned up the casting on the belt sander (a surprisingly effective method) and milled some other parts. And sweated on a steel sole before coming in from the workshop. There isn't too much metalwork to do with this one due to the shapely casting so hopefully I should have this one finished by Christmas.........

Friday, January 12, 2007

To Dye For....

Hi Folks
Friday at last! The weekend has arrived and it's workshop time!
The table mats I've been making are coming along well. I have veneered four of them (two more to go) and have edge banded the last two. It is taking a surprising amount of time for a relatively simple project. I wanted to add a solid lip of walnut around the edges instead of veneer as it will be stronger. This means gluing on lipping in pairs. And again on the other edges when the first pair are dry. Now multiply that by six and you can see how this is taking some time. Especially as I'm doing only one or two an evening.......
The new vise works great - I'm really pleased with it and wish I'd done it sooner. Oh well ;)
Tonights fun has been making up some dye from Van Dyke crystals. I've never tried them before and to be honest I'm not a big fan of stains and dyes. Van Dyke crystals are made by soaking the husks of walnuts. The dark brown dye thats seeps out is dried and sold in crystal form. To use you dissolve in hot water and apply. This appeals to me as it is a natural product. I also love walnut and would be interested to see what effect it has on the sap wood (especially as most of the Black Walnut I buy has a unhealthy amout of sap - Grrrrr!)
So I made up a jam-jar full tonight and applied it to some samples of timber. Walnut, cherry, mahogany and a board of walnut that is almost total sap wood. Tomorrow I'll apply a finish and show you the results.
I picked up the Feb 2007 issue of "The Woodworker" magazine today. Thankfully my picture has not appeared on the front cover (as threatened) but it does show my tool chest. There is a nice covering it's construction and also another Philly article on making a replacement handle for a saw. Thanks to Mike W for inspiration on that one!
So if you happen to be in a newsagent - beware!
P.s. Before anyone says anything, Yes, I do need a haircut ;)

Vices and Vises....

Hi Folks
Made an upgrade to my workbench last night. It was time for a new vice - the old one has been getting more and more cranky as time goes by. The final stroke was glancing through Axminsters web-site one night (my one vise!) £30 for a 9 inch quick release vice! Needless to say an order was placed and, as usual, it appeared on my doorstep the next day.
The old one unbolted pretty easily but I need to recess the face of the new vice into the front rail of the bench. Bring out the router..........
With that task complete, a little cleanup chopping with the Jap chisels and fine tuning with a block plane it was time to bolt the new one in place. I cut down the front jaw of the old vice and screwed that into place and Voila!
In use the new vice hold small and large pieces very tightly - I feel spoilt! And the quick release mechanism is a dream (reminds me of the bench in my woodwork classes in school). An excellent upgrade to my bench and worth the effort. Just need to clean all the Iroko dust from all over the 'Shop now.........
Oh, and I ordered some Veritas bench pups for use with the pop-up dog on the new vice. That should give me even more "holding ability".

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Busy Bee

Hi Folks
The carpentry job went well in Wales, two satisfied customers. Which is good, as they are my Mum and Dad!
The weekend saw me working with that horrible (but cheap) material, MDF. We needed some custom shelves for my daughters room and, hey, you get in that workshop and make some. Yes, the Wife actually wanted me to go into the workshop ;) I used a can of spraypaint to finish them which left the workshop with a slightly pink tinge (don't ask) but they turned out well and there goes another satisfied customer.
Thought I'd better give the workshop another good clean-up and it didn't take long. That's the advantage of not letting it descend into total chaos, I guess ;) I had a spare 15 minutes so decided to search for something quiet (and not MDF related) to do. Ended making some drawer dividers for one of the toolchest drawers.
Took an offcut of cherry, planed it smooth (using my new/old woodie jointer-what a great plane!!), cleaned up one end on the shooting board (which is now permanently mounted on the end of the long bench with the #9 ready to go), marked off the width with a knife, sawed to length, cleaned up on the shooting board and chamfered with a block plane. Simple hand skills, peaceful work and a delightful push fit. Made a couple more dividers, added some cork sheet into the drawer bottom to stop things rattling around-job done!
It was a real pleasure to spend a few minutes doing this. Near silence, the swoosh of the plane. No need to think about which tool to use or how to use it. Just doing something that felt natural. It is the little things sometime that mean so much.
You'll never get me to part with my power thicknesser, though ;)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Year

Hi Folks
Hope you all had a great holiday ? Raring to go??
Decided enough was enough-yup, the dreaded "Workshop Clean-up" time had arrived. After an hour and a half the place looked a LOT better-and felt more, what's the word, professional? No, wrong word. Positive-that's it. A place where I can get things done. So off I go.......
The Thumb Plane is finished. You've seen some pics and there are more here...
I'm pretty pleased with the plane-it looks good and works well. I learned a lot of stuff whilst making it and feel confident about making another. Maybe ;)
The bathroom is finally complete (mostly!) The final touches are the Missus department so I reckon that's me done. It sure is nice to put jobs behind you.
Here's a picture of something I'm working on. A coat of oil has just been applied-any ideas what it is?
I also aim to finish the shop stool. That was my first project when I set up my new workshop and (shamefully) I've not completed it. The steambending episode was too much for me and it got shelved.
Managed to pop by Pennyfarthing Tools in Salisbury yesterday. A great little shop, there's always something there to excite. Came away with three woodies.....jointer, jack rebate and another beading moulder to fill out the ranks. (And yes, I know I should be making moulding planes......) £18 for the three......couldn't leave them there for that;)
Off to Wales tomorrow to do some carpentry-see you Friday,