Friday, August 31, 2007


Not to brag or nuffink, but some tangible progress has definitely been made concerning tool cleaning. Not that any of them are sharp or ready to use, but at least they look a lot better. Remember these two?

Better without the orange paint, no? :) EDIT: Okay, so I've earned a "sheesh" over on WoodNet for removing the orange paint. Yes, I confess I had strong suspicions it was "factory", but, heck, it just looks horrible to me and ths plane ain't never gonna trouble a collector anyway. But I'm very sorry if the removal of this original finish upsets anyone. Perhaps it's small payback for all those annoying people who strip back perfectly good Records and Stanleys and repaint them... Or perhaps not. Either way, with the general trend of this plane purchase my first plane-finishing "sheesh" was just about inevitable, don't you think? :)

"New" correct cap iron, new handles and you can actually tell it's blue now! Still a Record/Stanley hybrid, but I have hopes it'll work just fine.

If you've got a sufficiently long memory you might remember the I Sorby back saw - you'll likely never see a clearer Mr Punch mark, every detail is visible. One of my favourites.

Just for once I remembered to do a few more pics of cleaning the 14" back saw so you can get a real before and after idea. Researching the name stamped on the back threw up a surprise answer too.

But that'll have to wait until Monday...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Green spots

Perhaps confession is in order? Last night I wasn't just refreshing the Lee Valley page on a whim. No, 'fraid not. I've known for a while that Mike Wenzloff and his boys were going to be gracing the pages of LV's catalogue and website with their wares, and well, I've been sitting on the LV credit earned by the saw handle article with a view to them... Well it's only fair - Mike was almost wholly responsible for pushing me down that hande-making Slope after I'd weened myself off the idea a few years ago after one attempt. Anyway, an example by the boys goes well with the custom-made one from the old man, right? Right? Yeah, okay, so it's a totally unjustifiable purchase in many ways, but the serendipity of having the credit and being able to support two of my favourite toolmakers (not to say good friends) at the same time is all the excuse I need. Shoot me. ;)

So Mike, stop reading the Blog and make sure those saws get off to LV in good time, d'you hear? ;P

Now he's gone, without risking over-inflating his head, I can tell you it also fulfills my usually under-financed idea of trying to invest in some of the best non-custom hand tools available in this golden age. Not to keep in a box you understand; but to use, enjoy, and hope that some future galoot, perhaps as yet unborn, will appreciate my choice just as much as I appreciated the choice of the best that I found in the Newlyn Tool Chest. Yeah, perhaps it's a silly whim on my part, but it keeps me (largely) out of trouble...

I'll tell you what doesn't keep you out of trouble though. Painting one half of a wrought iron gate with green Hammerite while your old man does the other half. Not if you're the one downwind of him anyway. Ever the enthusiastic type of brush-wielder, the wind aided and abetted him by whisking droplets in my direction. By the time we were done I looked like I had a nasty disease signified by a multitude of green dots all over the face. On the up-side he'd done all the prep work - don't think I could have faced removing more rust just now. But more on that'll have to wait 'til tomorrow - more than enough Blog entry for one day ;)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hot soup

As I'm sitting here anyway, refreshing the Lee Valley "what's new" page every five minutes or so in case the LV Elves get the promised updates up a little earlier than anticipated by El Presidente, I thought I might as well throw up a few pics I took while cleaning up some of the tools on Monday.

Given that there are "a few" items to be seen to, expediency dictated that a citric acid brew was worthwhile. Everything get's the manual treatment anyway 'cos that's my preference, but the citric does make the initial shifting of crud that much less effort. In most cases I'll give everything a scrub in hot soapy water before I do anything anyway - try it, you'll be amazed what a difference even that can make. So I thought maybe more of an effort might be worth a go this time, and actually brewed up some hot water to start proceedings with a whizz. Phew, and does that work too. I was so taken with the bubbles fizzing off the rusty moulding plane iron that I took a short video clip of it (had to be short 'cos the steam fogged up the lens...), but alas the requirements of web-based storage viz-a-viz compression render them invisible so I can't show you. But it was good, trust me. The still doesn't do it justice.

Please, don't ask me how much cirtic acid I used to water - as ever, I don't know. It was a kettlefull of water and I suppose a coupla tablespoons of acid? Could probably have managed with less, but I had everything out of the soup again within a couple of hours so it was a short, sharp rust removing shock.

Anyway, why do I prefer to still do some hand cleaning work on tools? Well mainly because it can be more selective and sensitive where necessary, but also because I find you can appreciate the finer points of them that much better when you've been all over the thing at close quarters. F'rinstance, don'tcha just love the style contained within the simple confines of the spokeshave's handles?

Look at the larger pic and you can see the marks where the casting was cleaned up too, however many years ago.

The brass mouth adjustment screw is somewhat out of focus here, but it too is extraordinarily elegant.

The whole thing's an awful lot nicer than the Stanley (and much lighter too) except for one glaring problem that isn't, to be fair, strictly its fault. There's a spring missing and now I've actually seen the remaining example clearly I'm considerably less confident about finding a replacement... Oh well; it's carefully packaged and will travel around with me a while, ready to be brought out in any likely spring-purchasing situation. If worst comes to worst I suppose a voyage into the uncharted waters of spring manufacture may be on the cards.

A few other bits and pieces got the treatment too, but nowhere near all the things that should have. It pays to only bath the stuff you've got time to finish cleaning and wax against fresh rust you see, otherwise you can practically watch the good work being undone before your eyes as fresh, new, vigorous rust swarms all over your tools again. The body of the router plane and most of the rest of the block still await their dip, but it's a start. Don't ask about the calipers - no, I don't need another pair of calipers, I know. That's not the point. They looked lonely, okay...?

Once I'm done with the soup it's on to the saws with abrasives and wooden block and the eternal debate over just how much one should do to the brass. Then the sharpening, the setting... Aaaargh, it really doesn't do to list it all, it really doesn't.

On a different note, we had a visitor caught up in one of our friendly neighbourhood spiders' webs yesterday - a female Giant Wood Wasp. Dunno if you've ever seen one of these fearsome-looking ladies in the flesh? About 30mm long and looking like it could sting. Apparently it's as harmless as a, well, fly but that'd be hard to believe if you had one buzzing round your head instead of happily identifying it throught the safety of a jam jar as I was. Pretty cool and safely released back to freedom, you'll be glad to know.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Preston Clump

Tools, it seems, come in cycles. Not to suggest that a pair of T&G planes would likely turn up on the doorstop on a bicycle made for two, but rather that the habitual rust hunter does tend to find themselves presented with a certain category of tool all in a clump and can then go for months, nay years, nary seeing a one. Was not I in danger of turning Alf Towers into the wad punch capital of Europe not that long back? I was. Have I seen a wad punch at all this summer? I have not. Crisis averted.

Luckily, for every disappearing tool group, another will shuffle up and take its place. I'm pretty sure I've jinxed the latest one now anyway, so I'll share this weekend's flavour of the month. No danger of a surplus mountain forming anyway - quality not quantity is the thing in this case. In short, I seemed to be doomed to buy tools by Edward Preston & Sons this weekend. Hence quantity not being an issue (worst luck) and in fact I didn't really see that many tools all told at all. Of course it was the August Bank Holiday weekend and just for once the forecast was for sunshine (a foreign concept to this island for most of this summer) so the car boot sales were heaving with sellers (and buyers) so I managed to haul myself round on both Saturday and Sunday - Monday was a day of rest and cleaning...

On Saturday there were a few tools, but many were old friends I've been turning over and disgarding with a sigh all summer and it looked like it might be a hollow vessel. If I see one more Diamond brand chisel (made in China) masquerading as a Real Chisel and giving me False Hope I may cry, but that's by-the-by. Things were so bad I broke my own vow to myself and looked at a box of woodies. Side bead, side bead, side bead, round, rebate (most with worm holes), sash (of course - never a pair though, naturally) and, ooo, small ovolo.

Picked it up, not boxed but pretty clean and wait, yes, a beautiful clear Preston mark.

Two of Her Majesty's finest pounds sterling? Small, and thus furniture-friendly profile and I don't have a Preston's moulder of any sort. Hell's bells, even the iron's almost ready to go. Sold.

Note to self - start using your wooden planes instead of just accumulating them "in case".

But that was it for Saturday. A combination of there not being that much, a strong sense of guilt about the tools already waiting to be ministered to and my recent record of Foolish Purchases has been acting as a pretty good brake just recently. The appalling weather applied the brakes most other times. On the way out I did spot a boxwood tool handle with bits, very like the one at the top here and I think I could just make out "Prest..." faintly stamped on it, and maybe I should have got it, but I wasn't sure whether it had all the bits, I already have a lesser example from another maker that I never use, and fundamentally there was a £10 price tag on it and I'm too cheap... But you see what I mean about tools in clumps? I can, and have gone for years between seeing anything by Preston.

Anyway, Sunday and again there isn't much, but a fairly regular seller who fairly regularly never has a tool of any sort had a fresh box out and I can spot a backsaw handle at 50 yards. Cue a classic Swoop and Rummage move. Alas, both backsaws had seen better days and I left them; indeed the whole box was looking a better prospect viewed from as far a distance as possible but I persevered. The trouble with rummaging through boxes is as fast as you burrow into one corner the rest of the stuff piled up in the other corners starts sliding into the hole you're carefuly forming in the sub-strata of the rust; after the fifth or sixth time of moving it, I actually looked at the piece of brass flat that kept jabbing me in the arm. Here's a reconstruction of what it looked like to me when I first pushed it aside:

Here's what I found when I turned it over; a 12 inch rule:

Now you know where this is going, right? Right.

I tentatively asked how much, seller does a worrying "the lad put the boxes out and he doesn't pick out the good stuff" peer and mutter at the Preston mark while my heart sinks and sez "Coupla quid?' I sez "okay". I'm not sure why I did exactly, except I've never seen a brass rule before and I may never see one again. I don't know enough about Preston stuff to know why they made a 12" brass rule (my catalogues only show larger ones, often folding, sold for blacksmiths. Why do blacksmiths need brass rules? So they don't mistake the rule for a handy length of raw material...?). Of course Preston are famous for making endless varieties of every possible tool, so perhaps they simply thought there ought to be a brass 12" rule so they made one? Or maybe my rule ignorance is showing and everyone else is sadly shaking their heads at me in a kindly but pitying manner and observing to their friends "fancy not knowing that". Worked out a costly buy though; that was enough to tip me over the edge at last and I've ordered the Preston catalogue reprint. Heaven help me now... And that's what I mean when I say I've already jinxed the Preston Clump. Anyway...

Only had a tenner and would you believe he checked the £2 coin before he gave me the change? Apparently one with a particular stamping went for £8 on Ebay. No, that wasn't one of them; I merely offer that up in the hopes that all over the country readers will now get funny looks as they check every £2 coin they ever get...

So there I am on Monday gathering to my person these two items, go into the workshop (workshop lets out gasp of surprise and tools collectively ask "who are you?") and my eye falls on the spokeshave lying on the bench waiting to be cleaned that I bought on the last Bank Holiday weekend. The adjustable mouth spokeshave. The #1384. Yes, that spokeshave by Teddy Preston and his boys.

Blimey, talk about coincidence. And what's worse is there isn't another Bank Holiday until Christmas!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Exactly how many smoothers does a non-collecting woodworker need?

Now don't get excited - I'm not proposing a mass clearout here. I know my limitations and while I strenuously deny the moniker "collector" I'm not kidding myself that Mrs F's little girl isn't a little bit of an accumulator... But really, what can one sensibly justify? Yeah, you can manage with one, but it means fussing with back bevels or different blades (or possibly adding a scraper plane to the arsenal - which I currently do not possess. There's a trivia question for the next online woodworker's pub quiz, if ever I head one. That and "Which common bench plane sizes does Alf also not own?" There could be a house point in it fot the right answer there....)

My smoother plane size of choice is the chunky #4 1/2. I like its weighty authority, it's sweeping statement of intent across a wide panel and it just feels Right to me. Do not the majority of venerable coffin smoothers have similar dimensions, blade-wise? Surely not a coincidence... But friends, sometimes the panel is very wide and the woodworker very weary and perhaps the lure of a #4 size is too much to resist, no? And what of those very localised areas of trouble that simply scream for a #3? I confess I splurged my magazine tipstering vouchers on a Veritas low angle block with the sole intention of equipping it with rear handle and front knob to become a #3-sized smoother for those very tasks - and it's really very nice. So nice it gets used or less specialised tasks as simply a handy small bench plane. Too bad its standard-angle brother is not equipped to take a rear handle for those of us wishing to play bevel-up games starting from a higher bedding angle would have been well pleased. As it is pleas have to be thrown in the direction of R&D departments and we go round the place with crossed fingers in the hopes of favourable results.

See how I naturally look at the problem from an upwards-facing-bevel attitude these days? Who'd have thunk it? But your more widely-used configuration of a downward-facing bevel opens the doors to so many more smoothing justifications to the seasoned "well, I need it because..." merchant. I mean who wants to fiddle with cap irons while swapping irons? Exactly. So a smoother in each size with a back bevel ready to go seems the very least. And what angle of back bevel? Ah, again, the well-prepared woodworker will have two or three from which to choose, will they not? The bevel may look at the gutter but the owner has the stars to choose from in terms of smoother justification.

Naturally I have only touched on the more common sizes of plane - but what of the 2s and 1s I hear you ask? To which I can only say that's the advanced class and even I haven't come up with those excuses yet. But I'm open to ideas...

But now I must go - England vs Germany at Wembley calls - plus I have to devote some thought to what my favourite wood is...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


This last weekend I Had a Plan. I was going to Rediscover the Top of the Workbench; i.e. tidy up a bit. Maybe even get a little daring and consider covering it over again with a view to having a go at the dozen or so tools begging to be cleaned and sharpened. I looked at The Plan and it was Good. As plans go I thought it had some charm, not too demanding and with many practical benefits. Not A Plan to discard lightly.

At some point I may even implement it...

Yep, still no workshop time; August is flying away as fast as July, and with just as little to show for it. Usually I'd at least have some theoretical woodworking to muse over, but nope, I am a hollow vessel. Picked up a succession of woodworking classics in the hopes of inspiration, but everything from "Planecraft" to "Modern Practical Joinery" fell from my hand after barely a glance. A very recent generous gift sees me with a copy of the Shire Album "Welsh Country Furniture" to peruse, and even that I can't settle to. 'Tis plaguing in the extreme to be quite so feckless at the moment. Bear with me - I'll snap out of it eventually, honest.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Double Dealing

Of course it wasn't until yesterday that I realised that post should really have been called "Mess Observation". D'oh.

Anyway, the results are in - settle down class. Chapman Minor and A N Other tie in second place but Wenzloff Major is top of the form simply because he came up with some extra possible problems that I hadn't even considered yet. All right Wenzloff, settle down - is that gum you're chewing? Have you brought enough for the rest of the upper fourth? No? Put it away and I'll see you after class...

So Exhibit A - Frau Frankenplane

"I may have the body and frog of a blue and British Record 010, but I have the iron and lever cap of a Stanley plus the cap iron of a Record #3" as Elizabeth 1st might have said. Or maybe not. The sole is not just rusty, but pitted, which no-one seemed to view as a problem? (Alas, everyone says that until you come to try and sell them a plane with an area of pitted sole...) Amazingly it doesn't appear to have any cracks in the cheeks, because that's the one thing I remembered to check.

Now this is where I offer up a Valuable Lesson on the Duplicitous Ways of Tool Dealers.

Said seller did the classic honest-as-the-day-is-long manoeuvre - and assiduousy pointed out that the cap iron was incorrect. "I wouldn't want you to find out later and be annoyed" etc. Well of course if you're already in a befuddled state you act like a moron and don't say to yourself "so what else is wrong with it?" like you usually would. H'oh no, you come over all trusting and STOOPID. Sigh. So I sort of took in the Stanley lever cap (hard to miss) but bethought myself cunning on the issue of the cap iron 'cos I'm fairly sure I have one spare. Somewhere. If I can find it. So I was thinking I was maybe having one over on the seller a little bit, 'cos he didn't know that the fault he was pointing out I was in a position to easily rectify. On that basis perhaps I deserved to miss the repaired horn on the tote... I mean it's no biggie, but it does annoy me slightly that this saintly "wouldn't want you to find out later" character had stuck the price tag right over the repair.


Anyway, I vacillate madly between thinking it's not so bad and with a bit of work it'll clean up to a good user right over to feeling I should put myself out of my humiliation and just toss it in Falmouth Harbour at the earliest opportunity. Heigh ho. I won't do the latter of course; it seems to have the older style frog for a start, so it's worth the effort.

Exhibit B -The Visitor from The Colonies

Hands up, how many people not living in North America have seen a knuckle joint lever cap block plane? In the wild? Yeah, exactly. That's one of my excuses (see the price tag above as one of the others) - the excitement of a #19 Sweetheart example went to my head. I ignored the orange front knob (I don't even know if that's a Stanley thing at one time, so unschooled am I in a type of plane I never usually see), I ignored the leetle bit of rust, the couple of tiny chips out of the back of the mouth (would have taken a good educated guess to spot those, folks, so don't beat yourselves up about it), the worn plating on the lever cap was just a charming illustration of the craftsman's hands that had gone before me. I put all these things aside. The block plane was even slightly comforting to me after I took in more of the 010's delights.

Three days it took me for the penny to drop. Three days. It took Paul less than three hours to spot the missing lateral adjuster.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mass Observation

Right-oh, get you tool-spotting peepers on these two and see what you'd have spotted that I didn't. I'm working on the excuses already... Beware: not all shots necessarily include a problem. Oh, and you'll probably want to click on them for bigger versions.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Socks on a squirrel

It seems the Natives are Restless. In mitigation, although I have sorely neglected the blog I've felt really guilty about it...

No? Oh, in that case it's tempting to go for the sympathy angle and claim a recurrence of "my old trouble", except
a) 99% of persons still checking this blog don't know what that is
b) Nothing on Earth will see me turning this blog into a wallow about it 'cos I do enough of that in real life
c) It sounds altogther too much like something Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham would discuss, and it's not!

Put it this way - I've been sleeping a lot and not finding the necessary energy to come up with something to blog about, nevermind actually doing something to blog about. Oh, except a couple of car boot sale visits; at one of which I managed to display Olympic standard absence of mind and completely forgot to visit the only regular tool dealer, and at the other I bought a couple of real dogs of planes and didn't even realise just how much was wrong with them until days afterwards. For is it not said, when feeling as if thine eyes cannot be kept open, visiting the dealers of tools is, in it's own way, as dangerous as turning on the tablesaw. I'll probably end up keeping both planes as a warning to myself on that one! Maybe I'll try and remember where the workshop is and take a few pics tomorrow and see if you can spot all the things wrong - the #10 is a masterclass in Common Problems to Beware Of so might actually prove useful.

On the up side I'm savouring the delights of the current issue of Woodworking magazine, particularly the boring article (look it's an obvious joke, I couldn't let it go unsaid, could I?) The interesting thing is I'd been thinking that something along those lines was sorely needed, but this just demonstrated how much I'd have failed to think to include if I'd had a bash at it so I'm glad I didn't. Plus I've never heard the phrase that a ratchet on a brace is as unnecessary as socks on a squirrel...

And thus with a flourish your correspondent finds another bizarre, and thus excellent, title for a blog entry. Still think the octopus trying to put on pantyhose has the top spot though. ;)