Saturday 29 March 2014

Tool Auction

This was the first time I'd been to one of David Stanley's International Auctions and it was certainly a step up from the General Auctions. There were far more dealer stalls and of course the quality (and prices) of the tools was far greater.

These two tool boxes would certainly have caught the attention of Chris Schwarz, wonderful interiors, particularly the one on the right which is from the Russell collection and featured in his fine book.
I met up with Derek Jones (the one in the middle) who is one half of The New English Workshop, you can see their interesting blog here

I was sorely tempted by this 'triptych' (tool cabinet to you and me) of mainly Holtzapffel carving tools, 144 in all. They needed a fair bit of work and I just don't have that sort of time to spare.

This was a rare and very beautiful plane made by Mathieson, one of only ten made in this style with the loaf shaped front bun. I left before this lot came up but it was well out of my league.

Lastly this superb model 982 by Karl Holtey was very generously donated by him to help with a school in a remote area of Nepal. It has special Polymer handles which were a joy to hold and the detail and workmanship of the whole plane were awe inspiring.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Lumberjocks Review of Dovetail Guide

A customer in the US bought one of my dovetail guides and posted a very nice review on the Lumberjacks forum

This was just his third set of dovetails with the 1:5 guide and they fitted cleanly straight from the saw with no paring or gaps, nice job.
The comments on the review were also positive, the word is getting around and I'm glad to be able to help woodworkers with their dovetails.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Dovetail Guides

To start with my dovetail guides were made from wood which was very time consuming. Moving to CNC'd aluminium saved me a great deal of time and enabled the guides to be made in five different angles. I then added a stainless steel name badge which helps to personalise the range.

The next improvement was to have the boxes printed which looks more professional, although it meant buying in 2,000 at a time.
Taking this a stage further I've had specially made foam inserts which is safer to ship and makes the box easier to use for storage. These added 70p to my unit cost but are well worth it. The only thing I didn't realise was just how much room 2,000 of these took up!

A batch of 1:8 guides getting the foam treatment!

Monday 17 March 2014

Buying Wood.

I'm often asked where I buy my wood and the answer is all over! Wood yards aren't easy to find sometimes and they can be intimidating places especially for novices. Yards that sell planed timber in a self selection manor are much more user friendly as you can buy small amounts and you can see what you are getting. The down side is that they are expensive compared to buying quantities of waney edged timber. These two boards above cost me £100 for about 1.5 cubic feet of timber (about $170 for 18 board feet for all you Yanks!) Whilst that is expensive lets have a look at the real cost.

The first board was brown oak, solid brown all the way through with no defects. It was also bang on quarter sawn right the way across. It is 5 1/2' long and almost 4" square and will yield enough timber for 10 beautiful small boxes, all with continuous matching grain. About £5 of timber for a £250 box, that's ok by me.

The next board was quarter sawn oak, again no defects and with a wonderful delicate tight ripple running the full length and visible on both sides. It measures 10' x 5" x 2 1/2" thick, enough for 10 larger boxes at a cost of about £4 a box selling for £300 plus.

Now I had to turn a couple of hundred boards to find these two but it was well worth the 40 minutes rummaging. So if you are willing to make the effort and you know what you are looking for, great timber can be found in these DIY yards.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Workbench Finished!

In between making tools (I thought it would quieten down after Christmas!) I have finally finished the work bench. I've honed this design over the years and for my way of working it's just right.
The frame is flush with the top as well as flush with the front edge, this makes clamping long boards easy. The distance between the top and bottom rail is just right for working sitting down with your feet on the bottom rail and your knees tucked under the bench, a bit like sitting at a desk. It's amazing how much work I do sitting down, with everything comfortable and relaxed you can concentrate fully on the work. There is a removable shelf, I'm surprised how many expensive commercial benches don't include one.

The frame is made of 4" square pine and has both top and bottom rails all the way round. It's as solid as a rock with absolutely no movement and is surprisingly heavy. The paint job is General Milk Paint in buttermilk which I think goes well with the beech and covers up the inevitable knots, having first primed them with shellac to prevent bleed through.
The bench is knock down, which is just as well as this one now resides in a loft in Cornwall!

The stop system for hand planing is quick and versatile and I would strongly recommend getting a hold fast. I've had benches with tail vices in the past but found them of little use. The top is 65 mm thick and has no aprons or end caps, another advantage with not having a tail vice!

The heart of the bench is the leg vice and this one has a 2 1/2" diameter screw which I make myself. A wooden screw has a nice range so the peg needs to be adjusted less than you may think. It also has a very nice feel to it and grips like a tiger!
I position my screw lower than others recommend, I find an 8" clearance is not enough and position the centre of my screw at 12" giving a clearance of 10 3/4", much more useful.

The peg board will take quite a bit of pressure as it's used, so I always do a through tenon with a flared mortice and wedges, it also looks nice! The customer has reported he is very pleased with his new bench (it obviously went through the loft hatch) and I'm happy to have a bit more space in the shop.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Petter Southall Furniture

I visited the Saddlers Yard Cafe and gallery in picturesque West Bay, Dorset. It had a fine display of furniture by the renowned Petter Southall
I took a few pictures with my phone but was soon told that wasn't allowed. I'm not sure why as there are plenty of images on his website. His furniture is mostly oak and is beautiful! Lots of steam bent or laminated curves that really work, I envy that sort of talent. The prices certainly reflected his talent with the chairs ranging from £3,000 to £5,000 each (that's each chair not each set!).
The chair below has simple lines and an ecclesiastical feel.

This round chair is just great!

A lovely flowing desk.

And my favourite, a curved reception desk.

Wonderful from both sides

And of course curved drawers to match!
If you ever in this part of Dorset it's very well worth a visit and the cafe looked very nice too!

Sunday 9 March 2014

Wonderful Old Moulding Planes.

At the recent David Stanley Auction I was treated to a history lesson on the making of moulding planes by Richard Arnold and one of his friends. This is a set of six 'mother' planes from which the soles of moulding planes received their final shaping. Mother planes are very rare and valuable and to find six in such good condition was a real find.

The WCLA stamp stands for Warwick County Lunatic Asylum which is where these planes resided for many years. The maker was William Kendall (1764-1840) and these were made in the early 1800's. For much of his working life he worked for John Green as a plane maker. All the planes were stamped.

In addition to mother planes for the sole profile there were a number of other planes used in the shaping process and you can see these were clearly employed in the making of the mother planes.

These strange looking beasts were used for the chamfers on each side of the top.

The four planes below were used in the shaping of the wedges and we had a long discussion over this.

Now if it were me I would take an appropriate sized board and cut all the profiles for the wedge, before sawing off the wedges to the appropriate width. But it would appear that offcuts from the plane making were clamped together in a row and then profiled, I was shown a museum photo which backed this up.

In this last photo you can see a little prick hole on the wedge. All the wedges of a set would have this in exactly the same place and then each of the wedges was fitted down to the mark. This meant that when a set was complete all the wedges were a perfect match, true craftsmanship!

Thursday 6 March 2014

Sauer and Steiner K7 Arrived.

My K7 arrived last week and after a few days handling and admiring it, I gave it a try.
The elongated rear infill makes it much more comfortable than antique planes of the same style and the pointed rear nestles right into the palm of the hand. It is surprisingly heavy which is nice.
Konrad has access to some wonderful wood, woodworkers are suckers for great wood and I'm no exception! The metal work tends to be overlooked but it is faultless. You cannot detect the dovetails, the lever cap requires the lightest of touches and the mouth is super fine.

Needless to say it works superbly cleaning up this curly walnut with ease. The Ron Hock high carbon steel blade really sings and the high angle blade takes concertina shavings. If I can find some time to get back to making some furniture this plane will get plenty of use.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Stanley Tool Auction

Yes another trip to the David Stanley tool auction! I couldn't resist a shot of this saw, a monster Stanley (no relation) mitre box saw, 30" long with a 6" deep blade. I was tempted to bid until good sense got the better of me!

I was really tempted by this craftsman made saw vice, a real beauty with large through tenons in the jaws and a wonderful brass and steel mechanism.
As I mainly use non resharpenable Japanese saws, again good sense prevailed and I kep my wallet closed.

This Lervad bench is a strange looking beast, although I've had one in the past and they work surprising well despite the narrow top. This one was in pretty good condition and will make someone a nice garage shop bench.

The best bit is the vice, a dog leg version with two non interfering support bars, great for dovetailing.

I had the pleasure of seeing some wonderful planes on Bill Carters stand. They weren't made by Bill but by a young man whose name I've forgotten, sorry! He doesn't intend to make them commercially as they take him too long to make, but if he ever did I'm sure he wouldn't have trouble selling them, the workmanship is superb.

Here's a copy of a one off Norris plane that passed through Bill's hands, it has a skew mouth and was faultless.

A pair of thumb planes made 10 years ago, not to the same standard but still very good especially for a first attempt.

This was probably my favourite, an improved pattern mitre plane with a minutely tight mouth and invisible dovetails.
Another great visit and the international auction is coming up at the end of March.