Friday 31 March 2017

Beautiful Boxes

Ivan sent me these pictures of some lovely small boxes he made after being inspired by the work of the great box maker Phil Weber

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Norris Plane in Action

A short while ago a friend of mine was asking my advice about buying a Norris plane. The classic pre war model A5 was what he was looking for, but I persuaded him to go for the Norris A50 instead. It cost him a lot less and worked a dream. He is very pleased.

Here is the Norris A50 that I use. It required the minimum of sole flattening as there was a dip behind the mouth, see the darker area on the sole. I could have continued lapping to remove this but it wouldn't have made any difference to performance.
The mouth (the tiny dark area) is just a sliver, enough to let a reasonable shaving through.

Although this was a budget model by Norris, costing about half of the A5 in the 1920's, it is actually more stable as the iron rests on the metal casting rather than the rosewood infill. With the iron removed (below) you can see the casting with the wooden infill set back slightly so it plays no part in supporting the blade.
The other thing I like is the handle is set very low down, giving a better 'feel' in use.

Of course with a sharpened blade it works a treat....

.... even on this curly English walnut.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Customer box from Denmark.

Jesper from Denmark sent me these pictures of a little oak box he made for his partner.
After making a dovetail alignment board, this was his first attempt at a dovetail project and he looks to have done very well.

The box was used to present a gift certificate as congratulations for passing her PHD in architecture, very touching.

Here is Jespers dovetailing kit of tools, he looks to have everything he needs there.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Tasai Japanese Dovetailing Chisels

Here is my set of Tasai dovetail chisels bought many years ago from 'The Best Things' in the US. They are still selling them now

I made a nice little box for them from rare Andaman Padouk, purchased from the widow of the great Alan Peters. This wood was a favourite of James Krenov, my other hero.

These are beautifully weighted chisels and just superb to handle. Unlike other Japanese dovetail shaped chisels, these are actually suitable for getting right into the corners of dovetails. Instead of finishing with square edges, they are angled sufficiently to cope with the corners without bruising.

Tasai is more famous for his dramatic and showy Damascus chisels which 'The Best Things' also sell. But I just love the way these all black chisels are so understated, no fancy layering, no multiple hollows and no exotic handles. Just beautifully made, superbly balanced and extremely practical.

The handle maker (I've forgotten his name) discreetly leaves his mark on the red oak handle.

And the famous Tasai mark, again discreetly stamped on the blade. If you bought a set you wouldn't be disappointed with either the look, the feel or the performance.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Thoughts on Dovetails.

Here's a nice pine box from Daniel. He used the 90 degree guide to pare down to the base line giving a nice flat bottom to his dovetails, good idea.  I've seen a few different ways to achieve this, the classic way is to chisel a hump in the middle from both sides and then carefully pare it flat. Personally I prefer a hollow in mine, it's faster, no less strong and gives me the reassurance of no gaps on assembly.

Many woodworkers assume that pine is an easy wood to dovetail, it's soft and forgiving which means you can bang home the joint without much risk of splitting. However that same softness is also a disadvantage as the sides easily collapse under pressure and spoil the crispness of the finished joint.
I've found the best combination for dovetailing is a 'hard' wood for the tails, which hold their crisp shape and a 'softer' wood for the pins with some flexibility. A classic combination is hard maple and walnut, which also gives a strong colour contrast to the joint.

The dovetail alignment board below was Marks first project with his new 1:6 and 90 degree guides and he looks to have done a great job. The alignment board is a very useful tool and a great project to get used to using the guides. It's best made from a single board (quarter sawn if possible) for future stability. If you leave the parts over long then any mistakes made in the joint can be cut off and you can have another go.

Using 3/4" board also makes you appreciate the need for squareness in your dovetails, the thicker the material the more chance your cuts will wander off square and the joint won't fit. This is where the magnetic guides really come in their own keeping the cuts straight, but above all, square.
Nice to see a bit of Blue Spruce tool porn in there!

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Norris Mount Cutting Knife

I bought this Norris mount cutting knife (made for Buck) ages ago as I really liked the look and feel of it.

The blade is sharpened at a very low angle to a spear pint on both sides of the blade, ie 4 bevels in all. I ground the bevels and finished off on water stones and it gave a super sharp point which was easier to achieve than I had envisaged.
Oliver Sparks made a small batch of modern high quality copies which can see on his Blog

The other end of the blade had been formed into what looks like a small 'split nut' screwdriver, not exactly sure what for. The picture below shows the construction with a central brass tube and flat sides which were bent over the wood of choice.
Time to use it!

Sunday 12 March 2017

Curved Dovetail Box Magazine Article

The latest issue of F&C is out now (no 256, April 2017).  My article on the making of a curved sided dovetail box is featured if anyone would like to have a go at this technique.

It includes an exploded drawing with all dimensions as well as a full description and lots of pictures.

There is a very good article on the Williams and Cleal Furniture School in Devon showing some of the fine work they do there. I've visited the school and set up and the atmosphere seems to make it a great place to learn.

A two page article on preventing tear out with a hand plane is very interesting, exploring the benefits of a higher angle, tight mouth and a finely set cap iron, although not necessarily together.

An interesting article by Jim Hooker (appropriately) on the sharpening and use of various types of scrapers.
In this issue there are also articles, on hand engraving, Lie Nielsen honing guide, the Geffrye Museum, Robert Ingham, decorative mouldings, antique furniture and planning techniques.

Friday 10 March 2017

The One Tree Project

Back in 1998 a 179 year old oak was felled on the Tatton Estate in Cheshire and leading craftsmen were asked to design work using very part of the tree. By 2001 the completed work was gathered in and an excellent book was published, see above. Prince Charles wrote the forward to the book. It can be bought second hand on Amazon, enter 'One Tree Merrell'.
One of the standout pieces was the Dory Shelves (below) designed by Petter Southall which harks back to his training as a boat builder in Norway. This one off piece has come back to the market and is for sale at his lovely showroom in West Bay Dorset for £4,950. In comparison to the work he currently sells this is a relative bargain and I'm sure will represent an excellent future investment as well as a lovely piece to own.

Another stand out piece is the Romanian Chest which was Alan Peters last significant piece before his sad decline and passing. I was lucky enough to see this when I visited Alan's wife Laura and it was subsequently bought by the Craft Study Centre in Farnham where it was briefly displayed before being locked away in one of their warehouses, shame.

Matthew Burt made this lovely fluted hall table.

Branch oysters were used to make this top, one for the catwalk only!

Robert Ingham made this bench cleverly combining angles curves and straight lines.
I've heard another one tree project is being planed and I very much forward to seeing the results.

Monday 6 March 2017

Lie Nielsen Block Plane Upgrade

The latest edition of Australian Wood Review is out. This is an excellent magazine that's well worth subscribing, there's only four issues per year so the content quality is very good.
In the tool review section this caught my eye, an upgraded adjuster nut for the lie Nielsen block plane. By using a free running bearing it reduces the risk of loosing lateral adjustment when moving the blade in and out. Ingenious but simple and a bargain at $29 Aussie dollars.
Robert Howard also produces them for Lie Nielsen low angle and shoulder planes.

A fascinating article on Kumiko also caught my eye.

And six pages on the Mujingfang factory in China is also very interesting.