Archive for October 2014
Popular WoodworkingMonday 27th October 2014
I always try to be open to new opportunities and welcome pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Any writing is not the most natural thing for me to do. But I do enjoy it and so I aim to make the best of my time writing for Popular Woodworking http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/editors-blog . I've been given free reign to write about whatever I want so you can expect content very similar to what you have seen so far. There is no long term guarantee but I hope I can keep people interested. The idea is I'll submit once a week and I can drop in videos etc so there will be very little changing, projects will also be included. So what's in store for my writing here? Well, if things don't work out I will be back here writing as normal. Because this is fun and a passion for me I'm unlikely to stop no matter the headwind. However while I am able to write for Popular Woodworking it's likely my posts here will slow down a little, possibly once a week. I'm also very grateful for anyone who has left encouraging and kind comments on the various corners of the internet and thanks also to anyone who has taken the time to leave comments on this blog over the few years I've been doing it. The conversation with other people is something I enjoy the most and I hope that continues. I'll be posting links to this blog and the Popular Woodworking in the G S Haydon facebook feed https://www.facebook.com/GSHaydon?fref=ts. I'm looking forward to it and I hope the new chapter is a good one.
A Comforting SightSunday 12th October 2014
How comforting it is to see a very nearly worn out plane iron. I must confess the stubby plane iron is not down to me, it was a recent purchase I could not resist. Many of us (myself included at times) are drawn to the new and shiny, the perfect example. But this one had me drawn in all the more. I wonder if a poll was taken how many a woodworker has worn themselves through even one plane iron? Sure there would be some but perhaps not as many as you'd think. If I'm blessed with enough time on this planet I'd love to think that when it is time for me to go all my bench chisels looked like butt chisels, all my place irons were down to the last little bit and my mallet ready to fall apart. And hopefully a few good pieces of furniture, joinery and various other projects in the wake of those tools. For me handling the unremarkable Record No.5 this iron belongs to was a great moment of reflection and a kick up the backside to make sure I keep on making things. There is still a little life in the plane iron and am very much looking froward to finishing it off.
How I ReviewWednesday 8th October 2014
So far all of my "reviews" apart from one have been using tools I have purchased with my own money so I feel very happy giving opinions and feedback. There is a good chance I'm going to have a shot at reviewing a product sent to me for my thoughts. To save having to write up a disclaimer about me and how I review every time I review something I thought I would write a short post about me and how I hope to go about it. Then, if anyone wants to know what direction I'm coming from they can find it here.
About me? I'm a trained Carpenter and Joiner and have done nothing else since leaving school at 16. My apprenticeship was three years and I learnt with a combination of hand and power tools. I was born in the early 1980's so only working with hand tools was something reserved from hobby projects. Having said that hand tools are used daily, saw, chisel, plane and mallet are as useful now as they ever have been. By nature I find it hard to be overly critical, I like to be positive and constructive. If I do have an issue I will try and explain it in a simple way so you can decide if my issue is your issue. Remember also that any review is bias, as hard as I might try it's likely that I will be no less bias than the next person. Also to truly get to know a tool a long term view is needed, a good few months is ideal but more than likely if I'm sent something a few weeks is the best I'll do. I won't pretend to have all the answers and what would be really good is for others to share their thoughts, even if they are completely polar opposite.
What will I focus on? If it does what it says it will that's all you can expect of anything and if it does some more besides that's great and I'll mention it. I won't be doing a top trumps style session on edge retention or weight. Spec sheet comparisons can often be misleading. How something fits into the daily workflow is of more interest to me. Value is a difficult circle to square but I will try and suggest if a price is "fair" or not.
Will I get paid and keep stuff? I don't want to be given anything, whatever I get sent I will send back. I don't want to be paid, to do so would be an "infomercial" and I have no interest in doing that. I also won't be banging the drum on what is the "best". Best can be a disposable term. The next new thing can dispose the previous "best" which could carry a message of "time for and upgrade". The thing with most woodworking tools is they are more than able to last many of our lifetimes so my thoughts would be based on concepts of long term use.
Why do I want to do this? Almost selfish really, trying stuff out is a treat! I don't make it out to shows and I don't own very many new tools so for me it's fun. I'm not sure you're going to see many reviews as I don't have much clout so don't expect to be bombarded with new stuff, but when you do at least you'll know where I'm coming from.
Silent PartnerSunday 5th October 2014
The small treasure trove of family tools at my disposal often throws up an interesting thing or two. I did not know we even had this holdfast. The style most popular today it the proper old school smack down type needing firm blows to secure them. What I potentially like about this type is the noise reduction. Depending on where and at what time you are able to do you work the potential noise, even of hand tool work could soon annoy neighbours and even worse.....wake the kids! Dusting it off and taking a look it was something that looked to be right up my street. Rugged, simple with a bit of history. On examination I found the shaft of the holdfast had been "improved" in the same way the English Woodworker advises.
These barbs allow the holdfast to really bite! In addition to being quiet it also seemed this type of holfast would be less abrupt in use as well. Gently winding on tension should be easy. I say should as the 3/4" holes that take my current holdfasts are too small. This one requires a hole closer to 1". I'll bore one and then give it a go. I can imagine this tool being very helpful to a Wheelwright, a great way of cramping awkward components. The name of the maker was also something to check out. These days it's just too easy to find things out that only a few years ago would of taken days. It seems J.V.Hill was a successful tool maker, saws and planes were also part of what the company offered. The company looked to of been going between 1834>1909. I would speculate this is at the late end of the spectrum. I'm very interested to see just how this version will work.
Core ToolsFriday 3rd October 2014
Are you new to woodworking or interested in a good solid core of hand tools? Would you like the "facts" written in an informative and impartial style? Do you want to get to the point without the extras? Do you want to hear the experience from an apprenticed and seasoned woodworker? Yes I hear you cry then you will love "Tools for Woodwork" by Charles Hayward. More broadly the theme of essential tools has become much like the story of Sisyphus. A subject to be recycled ad nauseam due to it's appeal for the new to the craft. And that's cool, as an occupation and as a leisure interest woodworking in all it's facets need new blood, new perspectives to help lure folks in and inspire them. And if that means the boulder of essential tools has to be rolled up the mountain one more time then so be it.
Who would benefit from this book? I think anyone getting into hand tools or even woodworking with both power & hand would love this book. The biggest hurdle any reader of this book will need to overcome is arguing back with the text on the basis that they think a set of 12 Chisels is great value or they must have engineering tools for woodworking. Another hurdle will be buying the book. To the best of my knowledge it's not in print but the good news is you can buy a copy via Amazon for well under £10.00 delivered.
When you do dust off your copy you will be gripped by the simplicity of it all. How you will be able to make some of your own tools, how worrying about innovative tool steels is a red herring, how simple a sharpening system can be. There are 51ish tools picked out in two phases. A get you started set and an add it later or when you need it stage. Perfect! I think any Carpentry, Joinery or Cabinet Making apprentice would not go far wrong with adding the get you started list of tools before they stated work. To me at least they seem as relevant now as they did when this book was published.
The book did have an effect on me, it was not a born again moment where I became evangelical, it was more along the lines of things really can be that simple if you want them to be. How it's worthwhile to take a look back and see the experience of those in our quite recent history who bridge the gap between the old ways and the people of today. I will be experimenting with the recommendations within the book and share them here but in the mean time do yourself a favour and grab a copy of the book and make up your own mind.
Past RealityWednesday 1st October 2014
Firstly a big thank you to some clients of ours who were kind enough to let me use this image. It's existence came up in a chance conversation and once I knew about the photo I could not wait to see it. Why am I so fussed about a photo of an old Wheelwright's Workshop only a few short miles from our own workshop? I'll start with the obvious. My Great Grandfather (G S Haydon) was trained as a Wheelwright and finished his indentured apprenticeship at the time this photo was taken, thought to be around 1915. It's always been rather fun to imagine just what type of environment a typical rural Wheelwright would of worked in. Also our two former workshops 1926 - 1931 & 1931 - 2006 in the first instance were Wheelwright workshops with the 31 - 06 becoming a Joinery workshop overtime.
What can I tell you about the photo? I'm not a historian but I'm practical and I have a half reasonable knowledge so here's what I think. The date of 1915 seem a fair estimate. Even in this rural setting the goods of the industrial revolution are present in the form of circular saw, band saw and lathe. Within our workshop these machines were run with a donkey engine (not a real donkey, slang for a stationary engine) and flat belts. Depending on how you frame the world around you these changes helped remove the burden of incredibly hard work or they removed a skill from the community and put pit sawyers out of work. One thing's for sure you can't stop change! I would speculate that output from this workshop would of changed hugely within the next 15 to 20 years with the need to evolve services offered. The way we negotiated this change was by doing other agricultural work, repairing barn doors, putting up barns clad with asbestos sheeting etc along with a move into more focus on Joinery services. Even that change did not last long, agricultural buildings moved quickly into the realms of steel portal frames and a bigger scale no longer suitable for a rural woodworker. That's what the modern world does, no matter if you're in sleepy Devon or in a big city change is not far away.
This workshop, like ours had a perimeter bench fitted beneath windows. Ours were fixed to the wall with a tool well and were not for moving. The scale of the Wheelwright's work means things would be typically be build in front of the bench with the bench used for making components with most projects put together on trestles or built up from the ground. I hazard a guess the bench in the photos was the same. It's a quick and sturdy way to make a bench. The window position is obvious, in a pre electric rural world daylight was king. We had an oil lamp in the old workshop but nothing beats sunshine.
There seems to be a ladder in the photo behind the circular saw and in front of the lathe leading up to the loft space. If these chaps were anything like us the need to hoard was hard to fight. If there was a bit spare you'd be loathed to throw it out knowing the effort that had been imparted in it's creation. And you can bet you're life if you throw it, you'll need it next week! I'd speculate also that the ladder was made by the Wheelwright. We certainly made ladders and wheelbarrows and the knowledge that ladder rungs, in the same way as wheel spokes, should be from split stock and not sawn was something I remember my Dad mentioning.
I can't be certain about other things, looks to me like there is a metal "American" brace hanging in the window and with the machines present this was a forward looking woodworker who was happy to invest to keep the service they offered competitive. On the less analytical side of things I love the authentic feel. The photo is not staged like 90% of woodworking images, the Wheelwright could be having lunch outside while the photo was taken. This is the biggest victory of this image, it's reality. It's not a Victorian painting of a country scene depicting contrived rural bliss. It's not rose tinted spectacles and a craving for simpler times where only hand tools were used, you'd need to head to the 18th century for that. There is no sales pitch with an option to buy the T shirt and DVD. It's shows the danger of exposed blades, dust and an environment that would take only a hint of flame to be ravaged by fire. It shows the last moments of a trade that was to become largely moribund. Most importantly it give me the closest thing to seeing George's possible environment as an apprentice and perhaps hints of our workshop in those early days. It makes me respect the work of my Great Granddad all the more. That's him below in a photo from the early 1950's. So my thanks again for this image, if anyone else has photos like this I'd truly love to see them.