Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday Travels and Family Fun - Christmas in Australia

It doesn't get much better than having all the family together to celebrate.  This year our youngest hosted the Sheppard Clan gathering, and it meant lots of travel for everyone else.  Flights from Western Australia and Far North Queensland as well as long road trips from Brisbane, and of course from the village.
Destination - Young NSW!

The South West Slopes of NSW in summer time can be a delight for the senses, and afternoon storms simply add spice to the experience.

The air is so clear and the colours sharper somehow, out in the countryside.  And after the storm we are treated to the occasional rainbow.

Xmouse Eve was HOT!
What better way to cool down than under the garden sprinkler.

Aphrodite and her helpers (my daughter and grand-daughters) ........................... and a bunch of Adonises (my boys and grandson) ................................. guns are us!

Xmouse Day - and breakfast on the front verandah.

Santa called in ................(really took a shine to my other daughter)

The 2012 Cherry Festival Charity Queen graced us with her presence ........................... (special thanks to Edwina)

Presents were handed out........................

The cousins called in to say hello to Gran..............................

Lunch was at Uncle John's and Aunty Val's.
Getting everyone together for a photo was something of a chore:

But it all worked out in the end:

Boxing Day was Picnic Day - a long standing Australian Christmas Tradition.

A game of bocce.............................

Throw a frisbee anywhere near water and ..................

And while the boys got wet, three generations of the family's girls went for a stroll:

Make that four generations ................

It was a fabulous recognition of family ....................... and a fitting way to celebrate the season of peace.

Here is some  John Williamson - Christmas in Australia -

Special thanks to the LOML for the use of many of her photos in this BLOG post.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Season Of Joy and Peace

As we approach the season of good will and gift giving, it is timely for us to pause and reflect.

What started all of this, was the unremarkable birth of a son to a carpenter and his wife.  The boy grew to manhood, and along the way started thinking of a different way of valuing and treating people.  He shared these ideas with friends - and they liked them so much, that they translated them into a way of life.  This, they shared with others - and like all good ideas, it took off.

And that's about it!  Period!

Everything else was added afterwards to guild the lily.

People have embellished and re-embellished the story until it has been smothered by trivia.  Then the trivia became holy writ and the original message lost in translation.  Angels, star, wise men, virgin birth, miracles blah, blah, blah - etc, etc, etc

Religions have built business empires upon it, and made war on each other in its name.  I think that Mary and Joseph's boy would throw up, if he saw how polluted his ideas had become.

So, at this time of the year, we do well to contemplate that little family and it's boy's gift to the world.

And so we celebrate our family, we re-connect with friends that we have seldom seen and rejoice with those we see regularly.

We give gifts to each other, and make an effort to be a little more patient, a little more kind, curb our boasting, and be happy for the gifts that others have and receive.

We honour others and put past wrongs behind us.

We teach our children to trust, to hope and to persevere in kindness.

In short - we show each other how to love.

These are the gifts of this season, and the path to true peace.

I hope that all of you will experience the joy that peace can bring, and the love of family and friends at this time - and for the future.

And if you are lucky enough to have a home to live in, a family to love you, and good food to eat this holiday season - spare a thought for those that don't.

Happy Christmas to all.

Have a safe holiday.

Drive carefully and arrive safe.

May Santa fill your stocking with gifts you need, and may you rejoice in the joy of giving to others.

Back to woodwork when the holidays are over.

....... and may you find peace ...................

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Old Hand Saws - Diamonds In The Rough

You can find them everywhere - garage sales, Sunday markets, estate auctions, ebay, Trade Me, Gumtree, and at the back of grandpa's work shed.

Old hand saws are the tools that few want, and most discard.  I have walked past the same bunch of hand saws at our local market every Sunday for the last six months.  While other tools sell, saws sit and languish.

Cheap power tools have made working wood by hand something to be avoided by the majority of people.  Of all the woodworking tasks that we perform, cutting timber by hand is - comparatively - one of the most laborious these days, and is much more easily done on powered equipment.

However, there are so many times when cutting can't be done any other way, and a hand saw is the only answer.

I have just spent the day with my eldest son replacing the dutch gable on one end of our home.  The old hardwood weatherboards were not only tired, but showing signs of rot and splitting.  Down they came and their replacements - weathertex - installed.

Cutting the angled ends of these was much safer and almost as quick as using a power saw.  We used my old Spear & Jackson 10 point cross cut - which breezed through the timber.  Even my son had no trouble with this, and he is not a woodworker but an auto-electrician.  I caught him grinning while sawing a couple of times.

Cross cutting timber with a sharp handsaw is an absolute joy.  It is a Sunday here, and I know that the neighbours are all at home relaxing with their families.  The last thing that they want is the ear-piercing scream of a power saw shattering their family day together.

Few of my handsaws have been bought new.  Most have been acquired as hand me downs, or knocked down at auctions or tool sales.  My father's Disston D-8 crosscut 8PPI is one of my treasured possessions.  It was the only saw he ever owned.

I was lucky enough, many years later, to inherit a saw from my wife's father, which has always puzzled me. I never knew who was the manufacturer.

We used it extensively, Lindsay and I , when building the roof of my first home - exactly forty years ago.  It is small enough to hang from a tool belt while climbing among rafters, purlins and collar ties, and was used daily in this area when cutting purlin props, roof battens and hanging beams.

It is unlabelled and without etch - even the medallion is plain - but it has a nib, and the medallion is distinctive.

It is only in the last month that I have discovered that this is a Disston.  Referred to as the Disston - Our Saw.  Here is what it would have looked like as a newer saw.  This saw is offered in the Disston 1914 Catalog as the No. 090 “special saw etched to order.” That catalog lists the smallest size of this model as a 16 inch panel saw, but mine is just a little longer - 16-3/8 inches. 
Apparently, the circle of dots on the medallion is typically of Disston origin.  While it's nice to know what it is, its value to me is in its history - including part of my own.

Other cross cut saws that have proved useful are these two - an Atkins Perfection 7 point,  and the Spear and Jackson 10 point saws.  I used the S&J for the weathertex because it is a manufactured board with fine fibre structure, and the 10 points left a much nicer finish that didn't need further dressing.  The Atkins Perfection 7 point is a great general purpose cross cut, that makes short work of  timber preparation in both carpentry, and wood sizing in cabinet work.  It is very good on tighter grained timber, but can be a bit too aggressive on open grained wood, leaving a ragged edge.

I don't usually like to use plastic handled saws, but I will make one exception.  This Sandvik cross cut saw dates back to the 1960's, and even though the handle is designed for a four fingered grip, it can be used with three. It is nowhere near as comfortable to use as the wooden handled saws, but it has a superb blade that will tackle just about anything in the timber line.

These are always cheap at markets and auctions. I got this one for $25 from an old tools sales store. I have seen them even cheaper.  My cousin, David, who is a builder - swears by them.

Finally it is worth considering the usefulness of a hand rip saw.  Absolutely no-one but collectors wants these, and they are difficult to sell, cheap as chips, and are often given away.

If you can't tell whether a saw is a rip saw or not, look at the teeth.  Rip saws are filed straight across the teeth (@ 90 degrees), and the teeth themselves have a more vertically oriented presentation to the wood.  They are flat across the bottom of the tooth - like a chisel.

There is an excellent explanation HERE

These three are all ripsaws, but with different features and uses.

The Bodman - top - is set at a very aggressive 4-1/2 points per inch, and is good for fast ripping of thicker timber stock.  The Disston - bottom - has 7 points and is excellent at ripping one inch or so boards that need reducing in width. The Tyzack Nonpariel has 6 points, and is good for those timbers in between these sizes in thickness, or for denser one inch stock.

Of course, ripping with a handsaw was a job often given to apprentices, as it was sooo physically demanding.  I still try to avoid it, but often there is no alternative - and sometimes - when time is not an issue, it can be very zen-like.  Get into the groove and become the saw.
Doesn't happen often, I can tell you.

It is a pity that these grand old tools aren't more popular than they currently are.  I can see a day coming when we will look back on the scrapping of these lovely old handsaws with regret.  Now is the time to grab some while they are still around.  They are the product of an age in tool manufacturing when quality mattered above all, and the hand saw maker was revered as an artist.

Happy woodworking to all ...............

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ukulele Orchestras And A-Cappella

Yes, I know, not necessarily woodwork but these are shared passions of mine - so bear with me.

It seems an age since my ukulele looked like this:

But it was finished - and is now showing all the signs of a well used instrument.

Sporting the tenor ukulele that I made earlier this year.

Ukulele nights and practice sessions are wonderful, but there is nothing like having to lay it all on the line in a public performance.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has always been our inspiration.  Here they play one of the favourites of the group:

We wanted to include this number in our concert repertoire.

And so it came to pass last weekend, that the Ukulele Orchestra of Telegraph Point, and the Village's wonderful a-cappella choir, combined forces to present an afternoon concert at the Telegraph Point Village School of Arts.
The concert lasted around an hour and a half, and was well received.

I will admit to butterflies before the event, and a sense of relief and accomplishment afterwards.

It was fun to do, success acclaimed and mistakes laughed at - family and friends can be most forgiving - thank goodness.

It is one of the strengths of any community when we support and encourage each other.  People who know and respect each other are the building blocks for happiness in any society. I am glad that my home is in a living and growing society of friends, where all are valued and our differences celebrated.

I love this place.

If this kid keeps practicing, he might be as good as the Village Uke Group - ha ha.
Enjoy some more Yestyn Griffith ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turner Hand Planes - A Small Review

Made in Australia until around 1970, Turner handplanes are an important part of our country's manufacturing heritage, and are still to be found at markets and online auction sites.
Along with Carter, Falcon Pope, Jas McLaren, McConnell and H E Watkinson, Turner manufactured metal bodied hand planes for a tool-hungry home market.  See Reference

Turners were different from their contemporaries, and deserve a closer look.

Turner made a host of different hand tools, but are best remembered for their range of handplanes.  These included 220 block plane, and bench planes - numbers 4, 4-1/2, 5, 5-1/2, 6 and 7.

The block planes and the number 7 pictured here are not Turners, but are simply included to fill out the range.

The Turner 220 block plane was a clone of the Stanley 220, with a ruby cellulose acetate front knob instead of the beech version that the Stanley used.  This was a useful and well made block plane, but may not have sold in large numbers - as it is extremely hard to find in the wild.  Perhaps, unlike the other Turner handplanes, it did not offer anything over the Stanleys of its time.  Perhaps these small planes were simply lost - bit of a mystery that one. The adjacent picture is courtesy of the HTPAA website

The other Turner bench planes were all made in precisely the same manner, and they share two things in common - attention to detail, and quality control.
They are modelled upon the Stanley range of bench planes and share similar design features to the type 19's of the same period - 1948-1961.

Here is a Turner plane, as boxed, from the factory in Nunawading in Melbourne, Victoria.

Totes and Handles

The most obvious difference shown by the Turners was their ruby-red, cellulose acetate handles - advertised as unbreakable in Turner marketing.

It was eye catching in hardware store displays, and drew plenty of attention away from the competition.

Wooden totes that had worked loose had a habit of cracking then breaking about two-thirds down their length. Interestingly, Turner marketed their handles as replacements for the timber handles of their competition, and hardware stores carried them as upgrades.

My first speargun carried a Turner ruby handle, procured from the local hardware store.  Inverted and reversed, it was the perfect shape.

Of course, as Turner totes aged, the cellulose acetate became more brittle, and with loosening handle screws, pressure on the rear totes sometimes cracked and broke off the toe - just behind the front screw - on larger handles.  So - not quite unbreakable.

Of note, is the fact that Turner number 4 rear handles were made in two types.  One was secured only by the tote bolt that ran through the handle length, the other had a supplementary screw at the front - similar to the totes for the larger planes.  I suspect that the two-screwed version was for the earlier number 4's, as they are less common. All Turner handles had a moulded seat on the bottom of the handle - that fitted into a recess in the cast iron base - for a secure fit.


The quality of the castings for the bases is another thing that impresses with the Turners.  Made from high grade, stress relieved grey iron, the thicknesses of both bases and sidewalls, are uniform and nicely finished.
The sides are square to the bases and the bases are flat from toe to heel.
Turner never marketed a corrugated base version of their handplanes, something that Stanley USA and Sargent did to diversify their line.  As far as I know, no Australian plane manufacturer offered a corrugated sole version as an option.  No demand, probably.

The mouths are well machined and are square to the body, lining up nicely with the leading edge of the frog.  The frogs are a work of art, and are an item that would not be out of place in 21st century precision manufacturing.


The frogs are made from aluminium, and the finish is so good that each frog fits precisely onto the mating parts of the base.  I have read somewhere, but can't verify it, that Turner frogs were injection moulded rather than cast.  If so, then this would explain the precision of these finished articles.
Unfortunately, the frog is also the Turner's achilles heel.

Over-tightening of the lever cap set screw, can result in deformation of the frog and blade mating surface over time, stretching the top face into a convex shape that causes the blade to flex rather than mate perfectly flat.  When buying a Turner, always check the frog and blade for any deformation of the frog.  It will present as a gap at the side of the frog top near the lateral lever, between the frog and the blade.


The frog is equipped with three different adjusters - fore and aft adjuster for controlling the size of the mouth, lateral adjustment lever and depth adjuster for the blade.

The size of the mouth opening is set by loosening the two frog-to-base attaching screws, and winding the fore/aft adjusting screw at the rear base of the frog.  Small mouth for fine shavings, larger mouth for thicker shavings.
The blade depth adjuster is linked to the blade and cap-iron via a cast yoke, which again fits precisely, leaving very little backlash in the large brass depth adjusting wheel.  This is beautifully made, with four knurled rings for easy finger tip control of the blade depth.  In my opinion, this is one of the best designed depth adjuster rings ever made for a Stanley-type plane, and is similar to - but better than - the Stanley type 18 (1946-1947)
The lateral adjuster lever for the blade, also fits the slot in its matching blade with no slop or play, and allows precise setting of the blade edge to the timber.

Blade and Lever Cap

The Turner lever cap is based upon those of the Stanley type 16 (1933-1941) and later.  Incidentally, this was also the date for the introduction, by Stanley, of the frog design used by Turner as well.

Blades for early Turner handplanes  were made by Erik Anton Berg in Sweden, and stamped with the Turner logo.  These are highly sought after - even today, but set Turner apart as a premier hand plane manufacturer of its time, with a premium product.  Later blades were made by Turner themselves, and were manufactured from high grade tool steel, that was hardness tested before leaving the factory.
All Turner blades are quality products that take and hold a keen edge.

In Operation

Turner hand planes are easy to set up and easy to use.  They hold no vices in operation and produce excellent results.  The only thing to be careful of is the state of the aluminium frog, which may have been stressed and deformed by over-tightening the lever cap screw.  Apart from this, there is nothing to worry a Turner hand plane user.

Their attention to detail and use of quality components stood them in good stead in the Australian marketplace, and make them a popular collector's and user's plane even today.  It is pleasing to know that our wonderful country was a producer of excellence in hand tool manufacturing in its past, and this can be a source of pride for anyone lucky enough to own a Turner hand plane.

One other aspect of Turner handplane manufacturing that would set them apart, is the possibility of being an exported handtool.  I have read, but cannot verify, that Turners were exported to South America.  Whether this is accurate or simply apocrypha, I cannot say, but they were well enough made to compete on an international stage, and enough of a threat for Stanley Titan to absorb them and close them down.

If you ever encounter one in the marketplace, it may well be worth the trouble to acquire.

............................ and happy shavings to all ...............

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Repairing Broken Saw Handle Spurs

Hand saws today are most commonly provided with a plastic handle, and a blade with hardened and non re-sharpenable teeth.  As a bonus, they are comparatively cheap, and have become a disposable commodity, to be discarded after they go blunt in use.  Their replacement is often just another throw-away saw to be discarded in its turn.

The handles are generally designed for a four finger grip, with the thumb on the opposing side.  These are ergonomically primitive, and can be a chore to use.  They lack the point-ability of the older three fingered grip - that allowed the forefinger to be placed beside the handle to create stability in the direction of the saw's cut.

Occasionally, a company decides to take the issue of handle ergonomics seriously, and a contoured handle is produced to follow the curves and shapes of the operator's hand.

Here is Bahco's effort in this regard, that has a detachable handle and interchangeable blades.  The handles, of necessity in this design, are dedicated right or left handed.  It is impossible for a left handed person to use the right handed version, and vice versa.   They are essentially a mirror image of each other.  With a solid  aluminium core, they are padded with a soft rubber compound for comfort in operation.
 Unless they are a sale item, however, they are expensive and even when on sale, they are not cheap.  Compared to a  traditional wooden handled saw, they are also heavy, but - in spite of this - they are still well balanced.
The handle is still a four fingered grip, and even though I'm sure I could get used to it, this is not my preferred way of holding a saw handle.  Old habits die hard.

From time to time, a perfectly serviceable old-time handsaw comes along, that has had handle damage.  This is particularly true of older wooden handled saws from the golden age of hand tool manufacture.  They hold decided advantages over their modern equivalents in terms of price - and also because they are re-sharpenable.  They can be used with either left or right hand, and are an ergonomic delight.

The top and bottom spurs are essential for the accurate use of handsaws.  The bottom spur cushions the heel of the palm, and allows an easier sawing action by directing the thrust of the cut from the whole arm and shoulder.  Without a bottom spur, there is too much pressure placed on the hand grip, and fatigue sets in quickly.  The top spur cushions the web of the palm between thumb and fore-finger, and prevents the fingers from sliding up the grip and becoming cramped into the top of the handle.

I have always found it to be important to try saws for the fit to the hand, before deciding to buy.  The handles are a bit like gloves, they fit your hand - or they don't.  And a saw, without one or both of its spurs, is near unusable for any length of time.

This is the handle from an old Disston that has presented with a broken top spur.   Originally made from apple wood, the grip is as smooth as silk, and its position on the saw blade is exceptionally well balanced in use.  I don't have any apple wood, so a piece of Mackay Cedar was selected as a timber with suitable similar density and closeness of grain.  After cutting out the broken spur to create a squared surface, the block is glued in place with two part epoxy.  I have taken care to align the grain direction of the block with that of the handle.

Once the glued block has dried, it is time to sketch a suitable upper horn.  I tried two, and opted for the lower of them.  A quick rough cut on the bandsaw, and I am ready to start shaping with chisel, files and sandpaper.

The finished shaping now only awaits some stain - to help match the new timber with the old patina.

Of course, the finished saw is a joy to use, and cuts like a dream.  There is a warmth to old wooden handled tools that plastics simply cannot capture.  There is also the knowledge that other hands have held this saw, and that in some small tactile way we are sharing in the last 100 years of this saw's history, and the lives of the men who have used it.

Pretty cool when you think about it - that's why I love using old tools.

D.H. Lawrence

“Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing
for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.”

............... and happy woodworking to all .................