Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Expanding a Bit

A brief flurry-ette of interest in the expansive bit, so I will, um... expand.

The design I have is the under-every-rock Clark Patent. Here is one in a box I made for it, with label cooked up on the computer - all many years ago now, when I wasn't swamped in too many tools so I could devote proper care and attention to each of them.

For those not familiar with the beast, the adjustable cutter (outlined in white for clarity) is held with a simple dovetail key set up doodah. Ack, the pictures are worth about 1000% more than any explanation.

You set the size of hole using the scale provided on the cutters, tighten up the screw and away you go. The Steer's Patent has a rather nifty worm screw gizmo that supplies accurate screw adjustment for setting the size, but this adjusterless design works just fine. I do crave the gizmocity though, but then I'm like that. Always wanting the bells and whistles.

So a few observations on why they apparently don't work and yet were bought in vast numbers and continued to be sold until really very recently.

Firstly, no, they're not as good as a dedicated fixed bit of the required size. But who hasn't needed an odd size of hole occasionally for which you don't really want to have to buy a bit just for one job? Also this compared to, say, a selection of centre bits would have taken up a whole lot less space in your tool box.

There's the second thing; it seems clear they were sold with carpentry in mind. Softwoods. The kind of thing you might pull out on site to make a shallow hole for a bolt head and washer, say. The fine lead screw is a dead giveaway - it'd be a coarse lead screw for hard woods. I know, that sounds somehow all wrong, but fine threads clog in hardwoods. Honest.

Thirdly, depth of hole. I daresay people do bore deep holes with an expansive bit, but really it's just a variation on the centre bit and shallow holes are more its cup of tea. It's not like an auger bit, but more like, um, a router plane. You wouldn't use a router plane to cut a deep mortise, would you? You'd use a chisel. Same with brace bits; auger bits for deep holes every time.

Fourthly, boring big holes is always hard work, no matter what the bit type. Asking an expansive bit to bore, say, a 3 inch hole with only a 10" sweep brace is asking a lot. Especially if you wobble. It's far, far too easy to go off-square and leave the wing cutter with too heavy a cut to try and take, at which point you will come to a grinding halt.

The w'shop isn't really in a state to do anything to wood at the moment, but I did hoick out a ratty bit of 4x2 and knocked out a partial hole of sorts with the bit chucked up in the 16" sweep brace.

I made life harder for myself 'cos the bit is not as sharp as it might be (which should probably, no, definitely be point number five - and where the devil have I put my auger bit file anyway?!) but I wasn't straining to keep the brace turning with 16" at my disposal, so I could concentrate on boring straight. It's not a pretty result, but even with my large selection of bits, ancient and modern, I haven't the means to bore a hole of similar size any other way. I'd have to buy a hole saw or large (expensive) Forstner bit, I think. And then in any other large sizes I might find myself needing too. No, they're not the greatest single brace bit in existence, but then they weren't supposed to be. They can come in mighty handy sometimes though, and they do work within their limitations.

Here endeth the Party Political Broadcast for the An Expansive Bit In Every Home Party. Vote Expansive and widen your boring options...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where's the catch?

I swore I wouldn't do it, but as I returned to the tool cleaning fray and looked down the barrel of 50+ auger bits needing cleaning, I wilted. And put them away unsorted and uncleaned. *slaps self on the back of the head* Bad, bad me. But honestly, it wasn't even as much fun as painting the Forth Bridge, and a bored tool cleaner is a tool cleaner doing a lousy job.

However, I did get all the other brace bits done, including the expansive bits. I seem to have acquired four of them. Pretty sure I've never actually uttered the words "How much for this expansive bit?" in my life, they've just sort of... appeared. Disappointingly they're all the same Patent design too, which is a bit boring. (Boring. Hur-hur.) On the other hand, it did mean that dos incomplete/ratty examples were able to become uno complete and totally unratty one. Which was nice. So I'll keep that one, and try and convince someone, or rather two someones, that they need an expansive bit in their lives. I'm hoping the sliding top wooden boxes they're housed in might be slightly alluring.

The other bit came in quite a different box, and in the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd take a pic of the rather nifty design of catch. No, it's not beautiful, but it is functional. Rendered in brass sheet and something other than a rather grotty piece of ply for the top, it could look quite good, I reckon. Handy if you need a lid but not hinges - or a way to close it without having a catch, um, catch on something in, say, your toolbox.

And that's two more bad word puns than anyone should inflict on the reader in one blog entry, so I go. Maybe I'll gather up sufficient insanity to start in on the chisels...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flying Termites

For this blog entry, if the reader would cast his or her mind back to January this year, and the overdue replacement of the parrot perch's critical component. Viz: The bit to land on. Well when finished, it looked like this:

It's not Chippendale, but it met with psittacine approval, and that's never guaranteed. Anyway, just a few short months on, and I think we can safely say that rigorous testing has proved that Faithful brand broomsticks are to be avoided if you're looking for beak resistance:

Yes, a good and destructive time has been had by both. So another broomstick gave up its life for the cause over the weekend. All went well - pegs popped out easily enough, and the replacement was fitted without a hitch - but instead of taking it down to the w'shop this time, I did it all under their eagle eye. Well, parrot eye. Mistake. Someone - and she shall rename nameless but I'm pretty sure it's PJ - is now industriously exploring the options for pulling the oak pegs out for herself. Darn.

In the meantime, I can't help thinking this level of application in the pursuit of the destruction of wood ought to be able to be applied somewhere productive. At the least, the carefully graded waste chips must be useful for something? Although why I think this is anyone's guess. I've been turning larger pieces of wood into smaller ones and making a lot of mess whilst doing it for years, and it's never got me anywhere...

Friday, April 15, 2011

LV Woodworking Newsletters Index

Solely because it was driving me crazy playing "guess the issue" every time I wanted to find an article in the archives of the Lee Valley woodworking newsletter, I eventually gave in and typed myself an index of sorts. Well, strictly speaking it's just a list of the articles and authors in the order they were published, but it's still proved a lot quicker to find the desired article when you only have to click one page and not hunt hopefully through every issue. And, indeed, to find ones I'd over-looked the first time round. It has no links or anything, just a straight-forward page of text, but in case others might find it useful I sought (and gained) permission to post it on my website. So here it is, and the newsletter archive on LV's site is here. (Yeah, it's such a link-free page, I haven't even got a link to the newsletters on it! Told you it was really just intended for my benefit.)

Oh, and a disclaimer: Some affiliation, 'cos I have written a coupla things for it*, but that's it. All my own idea, and I maketh not a dime from so doing. Damn.

*But in all other respects it's well worth reading...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bevel Bother

'Tis a curious thing that as soon as I resolved that I was over the old tool rust hunting and would devote myself to clearing up the backlog of existing rust instead, I seem to have found myself regularly at the car boot sale. It's not entirely my fault, honest. But anyway, I've been very good and stern with myself for the last few weeks. No buying - unless it's something unusual, special, or otherwise ticks a "need" box rather than just a "want" one. 12 or 14 inch brace - yes. Another chisel just because it appeals to me - NO!

So it's extraordinarily cruel of the tool gods to deposit large quantities of lovely tools into the care of The Tall Scotsman, which he then spreads out before my wondering eyes, is it not? Chisels and gouges and auger bits and Disston this, that, and the other. Sigh. You can only push a person so far, and this one probably comes under the "might need one day, and wouldn't I kick myself then?" category.

A drawer lock chisel by I. Sorby, 5/8" and 5/16". Obviously ideally I'd have liked to find it in the rusty tool box of one of the household clearance guys and have paid 50p for it, but these things only seem to happen to other people. Who get up earlier...

As you can see, it requires some attention to its cutting edges - which'll have to wait until there aren't two boxes of chisels between me and my sharpening kit. But there's the thing; what should be going on with those bevels? Indeed, what goes on with drawer lock chisels and the orientation of the edges? The L-N ones are quite differently set up via-a-vis which way which width of edge points in which direction, but then is Chris Becksvoort's method the only way to use them? Garrett Hack in Classic Hand Tools, shows using one to fit the whole lock in the drawer, for instance. Now I looked at the double-sided bevel on the narrow edge of the I. Sorby and could imagine you might alternatively just mark the sides with the wide edge and then pop down a series of cuts the length of the mortise like it was for a hinge, or, well, a mortise. After all, it seems to me that the short ends of the mortise are much less important for fit of the lock bolt than the sides. No?

The outside bevel on the 5/8" edge though, that would just seem to be all wrong at first thought. But then I wondered "what's the difference?" If the edge was inside, you'd still have one awkward position where the body of the chisel would have to be facing away from you, but this way round the least awkward, and thus likely cleaner cut, is the one nearest the front of the carcass and thus most likely to ever get seen.

Or, should there be a second chisel? One with a single bevel on the narrow edge, and an inside bevel on the wide edge? Or should both edges be bevelled on both sides? I shall, naturally, be hitting the books on this one, but anyone with practical experience - or just a well-argued opinion - is welcomed into the comments box.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Plough & Combi Parts Sources

If you don't mind me interrupting your normal programming - or lack of it - I crave indulgence to pick the reader's brains. Below is where I have so far to send questing combi owners for parts and cutters, but I'm sure there are other obvious places that I've overlooked. Specifically I'm looking for sources overseas, 'ticularly the US and Australia. Also, are there any master lists for old tool dealers in other countries, similar to (or better than, with luck) my UK version? Up-to-date ones, that is - the Electronic Neanderthal is a lovely time capsule, but of limited practical help these days. Any pointers will be greatly appreciated. Thank you kindly :)

Old Tool Dealers, such as those listed here (for the UK). Seldom itemised on their websites, so email or 'phone and ask.
Hans Brunner in Australia
Ebay. Love it or loathe it, it's as likely a place as any.

Reproduction and New:
St James Bay Tool Co. (Home Page ➔ Tools ➔ Stanley Reproduction Replacement Parts)
Ray Iles (Record 043 & 044 cutter sets)

Other Manufacturers Cutters:
If you disregard any depth adjustment these should all be workable in the most likely models of combi and plough. Some will work with your depth adjuster too, but it really does vary depending on model.
Clifton Multiplane (should comfortably fit the Record 405, as that's what it's based on)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

What's It Worth

Sorry, kids - didn't intend to leave you happily whittering-free so long, you lucky people. The lurgy turns out not to be some sensible 24 or 48hr variety, but rather the sort that seems to settle in and seriously consider getting furniture delivered so it can be really comfortable. My comfort appears a matter of no importance at all. Grrr.

However, the emails don't stop, and as seems to often happen, I got quite a few concerning combination planes all in a bunch. I must admit that does cheer me up. Well most of them, anyway. The ones that are clearly someone who wants to put their plane in working order or needs a hint or two on how to get it doing as they wish are balm to my ears. Every correspondent is the sign of one less plane rotting unloved on a shelf somewhere, and that can only be a Good Thing. I'll answer those all day and twice on Sundays. Although I really need to work on an FAQ for things such as suppliers for spares and cutters so both they and I can save a bit of time. (You may consider that forewarning that'll I'll be asking for sources at a later - but hopefully not too much later - date.)

Emails I can do without are like this:

"is a marples tools m40 plane valueable"

No please? No sorry to trouble you? A plough plane viewed simply in terms of cold hard cash? Depressing, and yes, just a trifle rude. But more to the point - and here comes the bit I should have written years ago to refer valuation seekers to:

I have absolutely no idea. Do an Ebay search of completed listings like I would have to, and you know as much as I do.

Of course what I really want to do is tape their hands to the plane and make them use it until they give in and realise that their lives are incomplete without one, but one step at a time, eh...? ;)