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Archive for September 2014

  • What We Did Last Week

    Monday 29th September 2014

    Oak Roof Trusses Devon

    Not being a "writer" as such the idea of putting together a blog was a move outside of my comfort zone. To give me the best chance of coming up with something I focus mainly on the tradition and hand work side of things that I enjoy so much. What struck me though was we do quite a bit of work every day that may be of interest and I hope will bring something extra to the blog. It's different in feel and I'm not sure quite how to share the story but here's a first shot of what will likely be a two or three times a Month section. Last week some of the team were making some very simple Oak "A" Frames, a very simple kind of roof truss. Being a joiner means you get the chance to give most things a try. Our line of work blurs from a core of windows, doors, stairs into kitchens, simple furniture and also some of the heavier projects like structural carpentry.

    Work of this nature is a welcome contrast. The less frequent projects often tax the mind and promote creative thinking. Making the best of our workshop facilities was high on the agenda but when you break most woodworking down it comes down to some kind of joinery. Here the size and weight was the issue. Using Green Oak means in addition to lugging around Oak 4" x 10"s your are lifting a great deal of water too. Most of the solutions to the making were in line with how most of our work is done, power provides the heavy lifting and hand tools provide the finesse and finish. The No.10 plane in the top photo is not there for a joke, it's size made it ideal for making sure the lap joints met nicely after the bulk of the waste was chiseled away.

    Big Drill

    It would of been good to see some pictures of the complete A Frames but they went out in kit form, later in the year when the structure is finished I hope I can grab a few photos! For those readers familiar with working Green Wood care of the tools is critical. Leave and metal tool in contact with the wood over the weekend and you'll have some heavy rust, ask us how we know.......someones square got rusty! The smells too are distinct, the unmistakable smell of Oak is further enhanced over using kiln dried stock. For us to do this work the numbers need to add up so clients will place an order and I'm glad they did in this case. Those blurred lines of a typical rural joiner's workshop mean the team who made the framing got the chance to learn something new, got a feel for working with wood different to their normal fare and I'm sure will be more rounded woodworkers for it. And for me I have a nice stock offcuts that in a year or so will make lovely slow burning logs for the stove!

    Oak offcuts

  • Bevel Up vs Bevel Down Bench planes – The Basics

    Saturday 27th September 2014

    I want this post to be quick and to the point. Both types work well creating near flawless surfaces when set right and both types have advantages and disadvantages.

    Bevel Down.

    Bevel Down Planes

    The archetypal plane we all recognise in it's Bailey and Wooden guise shown above. The grinding & sharpening bevel faces down and is mounted on a frog or bed holding the iron at a fixed angle. Surface finish of the wood is controlled primarily by the cap iron (looking forward to discussing this more). In addition secondary bevels can be applied to the back of the blade to raise the pitch beyond the standard(ish) 45deg and in some newer metal planes different frogs can fitted to change the pitch. And lastly a tight mouth. On wooden planes and infills the mouth would normally be a fixed size but on most modern style metal planes this can be adjusted. The bevel down planes are tried, tested and proved over hundreds of years and the work completed in their wake is breathtaking.

    Stanley Bevel Up Planes

    Bevel Up. A relative new kid on the block in the form we see above in terms of the ancient craft of woodworking but very good nevertheless. Yes, you guessed it the grinding and sharpening bevel faces up! Surface finish is controlled primarily by the application of honing bevels to the blade that raise or lower the pitch. Lower pitches work best for end grain and higher pitches work best when working fussy timbers with the grain. In addition the mouth can be easily changed and made ultra fine more easily than most bevel down planes, as the adjustment mechanism requires no tools. The bevel up planes have become popular in recent times and have been used by skilled woodworkers to great effect.

    Most users who like to change the pitch with back bevelled irons in a bevel down or with various honing angles in a bevel up carry an extra one or two blades to save grinding or re-honing.

    Stanley Sweetheart Planes

    Both have a distinct “feel” in use and what someone prefers will be down to personal preference. I have enjoyed using the Stanley 62 bevel up (after curing it’s problem). It’s comfortable and simple enough to use. The thing I like least about it is adjusting as I go takes a little longer as I have to remove my hands from the tote.

    I personally tend to move towards bevel down, as there is access to many examples in wood and metal available from days of yore that are smashing to own and use. From 20th century baileys or 19th century woodies. For me the trump card for the Bailey style is that you can adjust as you go very quickly indeed.

    Wooden Smoothing Plane

    The best advice if you’re wondering what’s best is to go and try some at a show, store or friends workshop. Failing that you can’t go far wrong using any version. Both versions are truly able to resist tear out, work end grain and create near flawless surfaces. Get one, try it, get the best from it and move on. Just don’t expect night and day surface finish difference between the two or faster project times, your skills at sharpening and using a plane effectively are I would think more important than you bevel orientation.

  • Uses for holdfasts

    Thursday 25th September 2014


    I don’t expect any of these photos I post when I have them will end up being earth shattering, after all, nothing new under the sun and all that. Nevertheless some of us might have a fixed idea of holdfasts are just for work holding. Here’s another use. The utility boxes I made used some really rough and ready oak. I was able to get rid of most of the knots as I only needed short lengths. However I don’t like to waste things unless I have to. This rough piece had a patch of grain lifting out around a knot. This side will not be seen as it is the underside of the base. I worked some glue into offending area and tapped the holdfast down. Done! Yes I could of used clamps and yes it’s not original but I often find simple pointers aimed at making the most of a tool or appliance very helpful.

  • Basic Boxes

    Tuesday 23rd September 2014

    Dovetail Boxes

    I’m getting to grips with some paint making for my chest and making sure it's what I'm looking for. While I wait for my sample boards to dry I've been running out some simple dovetailed boxes for fun. They will get used for gifts most likely. I’m playing around with a very basic form for a future video but I still want them to look pretty smart. I added a contrasting plug where an escutcheon would be. I think that adds a nice touch. I also added one to the lid but that was a step to far I think. I might tweak the dovetails and the proportions a bit as well. It’s quite a trick to make these things look sweet but simple to build also.

    Also as time has progressed I prefer to see less of the joinery on show. An 18th Century style tea caddy would be a nice one to try out. For a quick and dirty build though these utility boxes will do nicely.

    The Record #4 has been out for a run again. Clever little planes these really. Such a simple and humble little number, a real shame the quality of the typical "Bailey" bombed in recent years. Could they ever make a return? Who knows but it would be nice to see some humble, proven tools being made to a good standard again to offer another option to woodworkers. Fortunately there are plenty on ebay to keep most folks happy.

  • Four Candles

    Sunday 21st September 2014

    Candle Wax plane Sole

    One of the things I notice most moving between wooden and metal planes is the drag on metal planes. Chances are you will not even notice it if you are used to metal but things can be made to move more briskly and therefore less energy wasted. The solution, a candle! No mystery, rub it in and go! Why is a candle a good choice? Excellent value, easy to apply, no mess it is truly a win win! Use it everywhere, too much friction on saws, moulding planes or wooden planes. Save your energy for the task in hand rather than overcoming friction. How many do you need, buy in units of four!

  • Stanley Sweetheart Chisel Review

    Friday 19th September 2014

    The socket type bench chisel has always caught my eye. In volume terms it’s a distant second place when it comes the tang design. Historically the socket was used in chisels that were going to take really heavy use like framing chisels. I always thought the bench/general woodworking version of the socket chisel made familiar to woodworkers by the Stanley 750 looked a bit awkward and unbalanced. I also did not like reading about handles falling off as the seasons change. I could not understand why I would choose a design that was likely to come apart at a critical moment.

    Stanley Sweetheart Chisels

    I decided mid way through 2013 to give this type of chisel a go so I could decide for myself. Lie-Nielsen also make a version of the socket chisel but I decided to try the Stanley version. I went for the set of four with a leather roll, sizes were ¼” ½” ¾” and 1”. More than enough variation to cover most woodworking tasks. Price point is around middle of the road but not too much for someone who intends to use the chisels often and you get a leather roll to boot.

    Stanley Sweetheart Chisel Review

    Everything was appropriately packaged and initial impressions were fine. The roll is nice and strong and things looked promising. The first thing I was struck with was the balance. I had expected it to be dreadful but in reality they are really, really good. Looking closer I became slightly disappointed. The back of the chisel had some pretty substantial machine marks form the manufacturing process. So much so that you can play them like washboards. You can see a little bit of that in the shot below although most of it is now gone. That amused me a bit but I became bored when working the backs. I’m not a laser guided flat back person, just sweet behind enough of the cutting edge will do me. But because the steel in these suckers is so hard it took more time than I would like. The blades themselves are quite thin so I find myself working the whole bevel at 30deg, much in the same way I find myself working Bailey plane irons.

    Stanley Chisels

    So it is to the most critical part of any tool and that is how it performs at the bench. I have had these along side me for a while and given them a good run out on typical tasks such as dovetailing, paring and even a bit of light morticing. I must say they are rather good. That is tough for me to admit as I like my vintage stuff and I had initially thought the design a bit unnecessary. Paring is one area I really liked using them. The handles have a lovely shape that fits superbly into my palm with a huge degree of comfort. The edges of the chisels are more than fine enough for the work I do and again, importantly they are comfortable to hold. The edge lasts well too. In as much as honing was just part of a routine rather than an alarmingly regular occurrence.

    Stanley 750

    Would I recommend them? I see no reason not to. To my mind this is the type of tools I would like to see Stanley making. No frills solid stuff that's likely to last. Sure there are "better" but these are more than good enough to work with. One caveat. My ‘shop environment is really quite stable, if yours varies perhaps you might suffer the loose handle problem. My advice would also be stick with only four to start and add others as required. The bigger set option would be overkill for my needs. The biggest tick in the box for me is that I often think it’s time to move them on. I only really bought them to satisfy my curiosoity but I just can bring myself to move them on. I’ll just have to keep them hidden, can’t have people thinking I like new shiney stuff now can I.

    Stanley 750 Chisels

  • Parana Pine Find

    Wednesday 17th September 2014

    Parana Pine

    I try to avoid hoarding wood but I will make an exception. In a recent project we replaced a flight of stairs. The old stairs were most likely of a 1970’s vintage with what is known in the trade as “ranch” balustrade. That is to say no turned spindles but horizontal slats that look a bit like a fence panel. Parana Pine (it’s actually not a pine) was a favorite for stair work for a while. It is cleaner than European Redwood and worked well with interior styles of the time. A strong but brittle species, wedges required for stair work would normally be made from European Redwood as the abrupt driving in of wedges around treads and risers would mean Parana Pine wedges could break apart.

    Sadly the stocks of this timber were decimated and it has been a threatened species long before I started work. It has been a banned export from it’s home country of Brazil and it’s future is still not certain.

    Parana Pine UK

    So this is how I find myself in the unique opportunity to hoard some wood. The wood always reminds me of the beach, a sandy colour close grain with flashes of red and green. It is highly likely I will take myself out of my normal comfort zone a make something from the later part of the 20th Century in style. Until I am ready I’ll churn ideas over in the back of my mind.

    I hope to see the Parana survive and thrive again and if you any unique old timber around allow them to become your hoarded gem and not condemned to the refuse skip or bonfire. Sorry about the poor photos!

  • Enveloping The Past

    Monday 15th September 2014

    Great War Tree Barnstaple

    It was by chance I noticed this while walking in a local park. The blue caught my eye and I wondered initially if it was some modern detritus thrown down. As I walked closer it was clear to see it was a commemorative plaque celebrating a return to peace after the Great War. There have been many fitting tributes in stone that were erected after the conflict and most recently the sea of ceramic poppies at the tower of London. All of them help us remember the Great War in this it's centenary year. Yet this tribute which began as a simple tree planting also frames the emotions of this unique historical milestone. The passing of time and change as the tree has grown and the continuation of a living thing around a note of a time in history that saw so much loss. The soft edges of the natural tree against the harsh metal also carry meaning. Sometimes chance and the natural world can communicate as clearly as the invented.

  • Sharpen a Card Scraper

    Saturday 13th September 2014

    Interested in having another tool to reduce even further the need for sandpaper and to give you more options in creating a pristine surface? A cabinet scraper could be just the ticket. These are simplicity personified. A flat piece of steel onto which we apply a cutting burr and just like that we have a cutting tool. This is how I sharpen my card scraper. I've gone old(ish) school which I'm sure will come of no surprise to anyone who follows along here. My ingredients list is simple. Scraper, burnisher, file, sharpening stone and a rag.

    Sharpening a Card Scraper

    Scraper: In days gone old saw plate would be used or some suitable steel. The steel was soft enough to be worked with a gouge. If you go for some modern hard scrapers you will most likely need one of the extra hard burnishers.

    Burnisher: In simple terms the burnisher needs to be harder than the scraper. Imagine the scraper as pastry, if you want to work pastry you don't use a limp raw sausage, you use a rolling pin. A suitable burnisher really depends on how hard your scraper is. A screwdriver shaft, nail punch or a gouge can work as well as a made for the job burnishers (see hardness caveat above). A gouge comes up time and time again in books and I have great results using one on my scraper. If you do choose to try using a gouge use a BLUNT one to avoid injury.

    File: Bastard cut file that you use to joint saw teeth will be ideal.

    Sharpening Stone: I can't be turned away from my India stone. You use what you have.

    Rag: You always need a rag.

    The video assumes the scraper is new and a bit rough and ready. If you bought nice scrapers chances are you can skip this part. Pop the scraper in the vice and work the long edge with the file until you feel a crisp edge with a slight burr. This filing "must" be done at "90deg" but really don't sweat it too much. Then remove it from the vice and work the filed edge on your sharpening stone until all the marks fro the file are gone. Lay the scraper flat on the stone and remove any burr. Lay the scraper flat on the bench and hold the burnisher flat against the face of the scraper. Work the burnisher over the face for a dozen times or so to consolidate the edge. Clasp the scraper with the rag and get ready to roll the burr. Draw the burnisher over the edge drawing the edge as you do so. You will only need a small burr, small is better. Do this to all four edges. It's ready.

    Sharpened scraper.

    If you have dust repeat the above. When you feel the edge dull simply consolidate/knock back the burr and roll a new one. You will be able to do that quite a bit. When that fails, file and go again. Congratulations! Less dust, less sandpaper, more simple and useful skills under the belt. Result!

  • Don't Dismiss The........

    Thursday 11th September 2014


    …….Straight Sided Chisel. But that’s a tool for site carpenters who need strong tools? Not necessarily. Sure, it’s typical of strong chisels to have straight sides but perhaps let’s allow other factors to motivate our thoughts. If we think of a chisel for robust use perhaps if we use the words of Joseph Moxon (see page 72) and call them “former” chisels perhaps we are closer to framing the concept better.

    Firmer Chisels

    The image above shows what I feel are formers (I now drop the use of the word firmer). At the bottom of the photo is a beast by Marples. A big hoop ironed ash handle and strong ferule with a thick blade. Above the Marples sit two modern day formers with strike caps and tough plastic handles, however they have bevelled sides. The clues to a chisel use are more than just the sides.

    Stormont Chisels

    Contrast that with my chisels by Stormont. Boxwood handles with brass ferrules and thin(ish) blades. You wont catch me “forming” with those. But they have straight sides, how can you use them for accurate joinery? Well you can. Take a look at the image below. Cutting the waste between tails seem initially a no go area for the straight sided bench chisel.


    Not so, all you have to do is lean.

    Dovetail 2

    As you can see thanks to my clumsy hands there is a little damage to the tail, but that’s me not the chisel. Need more evidence, watch George.

    Dovetail Box

    Just to clarify here, this is not a call to throw your bevelled edge chisels away, that would be daft. It's fair to say that they are "better" for most fine work. My point is not to dismiss a straight bladed tool for a bargain price at the Vintage Fair, Car Boot sale or Auction site. If you did you would be missing out on a chance of fantastic steel, comfort and balance.

  • Traditional Window Colours

    Wednesday 3rd September 2014

    Linseed Oil Paint Windows

    Within the next phase of my Six Board Chest project I'll be on to the finishing. If you've been following along recently you'll also know that I'm going to try and make my own Linseed Oil Paint. This leads me onto a bit of a tangent. One of my pet things to do when out and about is to take notes and photos of what I see. As a Joiner with in interest in the traditional I can't help but notice and nose around all kinds of woodwork. On window surveys I have been taking a keen interest in the paint colour beneath the flaking white I'm often greeted with. What I seem to see most often is a "stone colour" (sandstoneish yellow). The flaking white is nearly always a modern oil paint but the "stone colour" below is still normally adhering to the surfaces well. A note of caution here, if you feel inspired to go investigating know that nearly all old oil paint on wood is likely to have lead in it and is therefore highly harmful to health. Take appropriate steps to protect yourself.

    Linseed Oil Paint Windows

    This had me thinking, why cover over original colours with white? My hunch (it's no more than that) is it made you look posh! Far fetched I know but here is my theory. The main exception to the "stone colour" rule I notice is that with larger, grander homes there seems to be more white all the way through. Reason for that? Again speculation here but white would be made with Lead Oxide. Lead is not the cheapest substance going so my theory is the bigger your wallet the whiter your windows. Have I got this wrong? Please let me know, I'm all ears. Another benefit for those with deep wallets of using white lead oxide paint is that it's a very strong biocide (remember lead is toxic). This would I think enhance the durability of windows no end. After all, windows in the UK were typically made of Pinus Sylvestris, not the most naturally durable stuff going. So where is this going.

    Traditional Window Colours

    Where this is going is don't be boring. White windows everywhere in historic cottages and homes, trying to keep up with the Jones and their posh white, pah (all of that is based on an assumption mind). Give me some originality. I stood back from one building, it had a large sandstone date block in the centre flanked by three windows each side. All had been painted white against a pale wall colour. The only way I could describe it would be staring at a face with white eyes lacking pupils or cornea (sorry for that mental image). Standing back I imagined the windows in "stone colour" and instantly it looked balanced and right, a face with eyes, the stone colour complimenting the sandstone date block. So if you're thinking of getting those period details right on your home don't neglect the paint colour. And if your painting furniture, look way beyond milk paint and focus your sights on linseed oil paint.