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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Used and Abused

I have been working with my son for the last five days, demolishing, repairing and re-building his bathroom.  That is another story, but during the re-build, we needed a rough-house chisel, and mine wasn't handy so he produced one from his shed.  We only needed a beater, and what he found filled the bill nicely.

When he'd finished, he passed this chisel to me.

Oh my sainted aunt!

The handle was the first clue - birch - and the shape - definitely Swedish.  One look at the blade told me it was something special.  That same bevelled edged shape has been used by Jernbolaget, Kronan and Erik Anton Berg.
I was ready to weep.

Here it is next to a Berg handle - fresh from the market.
Closer inspection showed it for what it is:

Swedish Toledos are excellent chisels and make fine parers.  They are to be cared for, honed and used for the purpose for which they were manufactured - paring, with a razor sharp edge.
Let's check that edge:

Holy opened paint tins Batman!
It's a super-dull maxi-fat-edge chisel, of the non-cut variety.
This looks like a job for the dynamic duo - wire wheel, grinder, oilstones and arkansas stone.  (OK quartet!)

A quick cleanup revealed the problems ahead.  No serious pitting thank goodness.

................The back needed re-flattening, and the bevel - (what bevel?!!!!!!!!) -  needed re-grinding after the edge was squared to the sides.

That poor old handle had been belted so much that it had lost a full half-inch of its length.  Furthermore, it was cracked all the way through both sides. Only the ferrules were holding it together.

Time for a new one.
 I remove old handles by gripping the blade between scrap leather in my Carter vice, and tapping a suitably sized open ended spanner against the handle.  If the handle is worth keeping, I pad the spanner as well - not in this case however.

With an inch of blade already gone, this chisel begged for a longer handle in the Japanese paring chisel style.  I'll try to stay true to its Swedish origins with the profile, but there will be no top ferrule.  This chisel will never again be struck.

I have chosen a piece of black wattle from my wood-cave for this handle.  Black wattle grows wild around here, and is a plentiful, renewable resource.  It has some pleasing grain and will serve very nicely.  As before, with the Sorby chisel, I have accentuated the length in this handle, as I enjoy the added control that this imparts to the chisel when paring.

A coat of beeswax and a quick polish with a handful of shavings, and the handle is complete.
Here is the finished article: one Toledo Steel - Made in Sweden - Bevelled Edge Paring Chisel!

Once again, a good test of the keen-ness of the blade, is how well it pares end grain.

Not too shabby at all!

Now that is a real feel-good ugly duckling story.

I'll have to find another beater of a chisel for my son to return to his shed.  Something with a plastic handle this time.  Hee hee!  This one can become his going out chisel, only to be used on Sundays.......

May all your uglies turn into swans, and all your problems be small ones ...............

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beginning Woodworking - A Basic Woodworking Starter Kit

I am often asked, particularly by parents who have a child interested in woodworking, what is a sensible basic starter tool kit.  I have thought about this a lot, and have usually referred them to good old Google to see what is recommended elsewhere.

I tried it myself recently, (Googling), and was disappointed with the results.  The kits were either too elaborate, or attempts by commercial enterprises to flog off tools that weren't selling.

Sooooo ........ I have put my limited grey matter to work, and come up with my own basic tool kit list.  These tools are based on what I have seen my grandchildren use in my own workshop, and I have left out tools that they cannot handle.

Having said that, I don't think that there are any essential omissions.  In other words, this starter kit would suit anyone commencing woodwork.

Okey dokey - measuring and marking time.
  • 300mm (12 inch for you foreigners) steel rule
  • Steel retractable tape measure -5m, 8m, 10m ... whatever you can find .... length isn't that important.  Handy to have a stopper button like this one.  I like the metric/imperial tapes, but children should have one or the other - too confusing otherwise.
  • Combination square - 90 and 45 degrees
  • Pencils - HB or H - kids always press too hard
  • Pencil sharpener

Screwing and nailing:
  • Warrington hammer - easier for kids to use than a standard claw hammer, as it isn't as heavy and is better balanced.  There are different sizes in these, so take the kids to the markets and get them to try the hammers before buying.
  • Nail punches - flat ended - 1/8 inch and 1/16 inches wide at the tip
  • Screw drivers - flat bladed and phillips head (posi-drive) -  small and larger in each

Chiseling and sharpening:
  • Four bevelled edge chisels 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch wide.  Older chisels are usually better than the new consumer chisels from the hardware stores.  Again, the markets are your friend.  Best value around at the moment are the older English bevelled edge chisels - anything made in Sheffield.
  • Pocket knife - useful for so many little jobs around the workshop. In Australia you have to be over 18 to own one of these - Jeez, talk about the nanny state!
  • Oilstone - and protective wooden box - for sharpening.
  • Sharpening lubricant - I use a kerosene/oil mix of 3/1, but straight kerosene would probably be OK. Plastic squeeze bottle is from a hair-care store.
  • Beginners might like to use a honing guide - not shown here but follow the link.


 For kids, a shorter hand saw is better than a longer one, as they have more control over the cut.  You won't need all of these saws, but two would be good.
  • An 18-22 inch crosscut saw with around 8-10 teeth per inch is most easily managed.  Number 1 is a Disston American Boy - 18 inch X-cut saw. Number 2 is a 20 inch Warranted Superior X-cut saw probably made by Simonds.  Number 3 is a 22 inch X-cut Spear and Jackson.  Of all three my grandkids prefer the 22 inch saw
  • A tenon saw has a brass or steel spine to stiffen the blade and children handle this easily if it has smaller teeth - say 10-12 per inch. Cross cut of course.  This one - number 4 - is a Tyzack.
  • There are no rip saws shown here, and children struggle to use them anyway.  Most of the timber that kids will use will be milled and dressed. If not, they can ask an adult to use a power tool to do it for them.  Kids faced with hand ripping, will simply lose interest very quickly.  As far as timber is concerned, it's better if it is softwood - lighter and easier to handle.

 Planing and Smoothing:

A hand plane is one tool that kids love using. Since most timber used by children will be dressed, they can start with a block plane - Number 1 above - for all those small jobs.  It is a good size for small hands, and the blade is narrow enough that it isn't too hard to push.  This one is an older Stanley 102 - a great little apron plane.

As kids get older and can handle heavier tools, a smoothing plane like this Stanley Number 4 (actually numbered 2 here) is a logical next choice.  For youngsters, a number 3 sized plane might be better, as it has a narrower blade and is easier to push.  These - the Stanley 4 type - are the most common sized plane everywhere, and once again the older ones are better than the new stuff being sold in hardware stores.  Another trip to the markets!

Number 3 is a jack plane, and is longer at around 14 inches.  It is great for shaving off a lot of wood in a hurry, but may never be needed by youngsters. Older woodworkers will find it to be sooo useful.  This one was made by Carter Tools right here in Australia.


Don't ask me why, but kids love drilling holes.  A decent hand drill with double pinion gears like this one is just the ticket.  Of course there are plenty of cheap cordless power drills around at the moment, but most youngsters don't have the strength to handle them.  OK for older, stronger children though.
A hand drill like this one is great for hand-eye co-ordination, and for the development of fine motor skills.

A decent set of sharp drills is a must.  Kids are prone to break the finer drills in a drill kit, so supervise these if they have to be used.

..... and that is about it.

I really don't think that there are any other essential tools.  With this kit, nearly all woodworking tasks that children will address will be covered.  This same set of woodworking tools would be an excellent starter tool chest for any beginning woodworker.  Of course there are absolute buckets of extra tools that could be added.  These can be acquired as the need arises, and as woodworking skills develop and grow.

Now, there are plenty of other tools that I use regularly, but they aren't essential, just desirable and useful. If you get bitten by the handtool bug, there are dozens of ways of expanding your knowledge and ability to use them well.

Just to inspire you further, here is a chest of handtools that were once owned by a piano maker known as H O Studley.  Feast your eyes on the tool chest that he made for his tools :

Picture courtesy of Fine Woodworking - see link above

OK ....... a woodworking tool kit can be put together piece by piece.  Knowing what's important and what's not, helps us focus on essentials.   My list above can be a guide for birthdays and Xmouse presents as well.

Hope it was of some help.........

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Falcon Pope Hand Planes - A Small Review

One of the joys of any road trip is the encounter of the unexpected.  I had the good fortune to encounter some pieces of classic Australian post war hand tool manufacturing, in the form of two Falcon - Pope handplanes.
These are the less common F 5-1/2 and F 4-1/2.  What a great opportunity for a mini-review.

These have spent the best part of the last sixty years in a trade college, but show signs of very little use, in spite of some running repairs to moving parts.  The handles are dented and dinged about from rough storage - trade schools can be tough on tools.

 Falcon Handplanes were introduced just after World War II in 1946, and had ceased manufacture in 1956 - a very short history to be sure.  Yet they were an essential part of Australia's post-war development and housing boom. They were contemporaries of  Carter and Turner - other plane manufacturers in Australia.

The F 5-1/2 seems to be completely original, right down to its two piece depth adjuster yoke.

The F 4-1/2 has had a couple of modifications that, I assume, were essential replacements to keep it in service.

The most obvious of these is the addition of a Carter - Australia - Blade.  Less obvious is the substitute depth adjuster wheel, and one piece yoke that engages the cap-iron.
I am guessing that these were added to replace "lost" items.

Both planes are well made, with flat bases and sides that are square to the soles.  The frogs are made of cast iron, and on both, the sloped surface that supports the flat of the blade was well machined and completely co-planar.  Later Pope planes had alloy frogs that were sometimes prone to bending - not so in this case.
 The depth adjusters on both planes showed a certain amount of "slop" or play between the forward and backward engaged positions.  The split yoke on the F 5-1/2 had around 2 full turns of the brass depth adjuster, the F 4-1/2, had only a little more than one.  The solid yoke may account for this.

For comparison, here is the F 4-1/2 frog beside a 1920's Stanley frog.  The Falcon Pope has a little lateral movement when the frog screws are loosened, where the Stanley has none.  Stanleys of this era were among the best ever made, and their parts fitted together with very tight tolerances.  The Falcon Pope tolerances are a little broader than that.

 One thing that I have noticed on all Falcon Popes that I have seen, is the angled nature of the recesses for the frog screws.

The Stanley has recesses whose rear is at 90 degrees to the surface where the screws engage.  The Falcon Pope's seem to be undercut. This does cause the screwdriver to jam against the frog when tightening the frog screws after adjusting the frog forward.  Angling the screwdriver solves this, but it is impossible to engage the full flat of the screwdriver blade in the screw slots as a result.

The mouths of both Falcon Pope planes are square to the sides and a good size to accommodate the blades.  They are more carefully machined and a more precise size than those of Stanleys that were being produced around the same time.  They more closely resemble the quality mouths produced on Stanleys from a much earlier era.

Both of these planes have mouths that are the same size - it is the difference in blade thickness that creates the fineness shown here.

Falcon Pope blades are thicker than the standard Stanley offering, and the Carter blade found in the F 4-1/2 is thicker again.

Using these planes is quite a pleasure.  Both of them are heavy - with thick castings.  Compare the cheeks of the F 4-1/2 to those of the Stanley beside it in the picture - three above.  A standard Stanley 4-1/2 plane weighs 4-3/4 lbs. The Falcon Pope F 4-1/2  tips the scales at 5-1/4 lbs ....   quite a beast!

The mass of both of the Falcon Popes,  ensures that they both absolutely breeze through timber in the planing process.  Here is a piece of ropey old radiata pine that I set to with first the F 5-1/2 Jack, and then the smoother - the F 4-1/2.

Good thick chunky shavings from the F 5-1/2.  Wood removed in short order - great fun.

Much thinner shavings from the F 4-1/2, and a quite acceptable finish. This from the Carter blade as found with no further honing.

For a quick comparison, here is my Bedrock 604-1/2 with a Lie Nielsen Blade, and the shaving that it produced.  Much better.

Here is the result after honing the Carter blade. Virtually the same as the Lie Nielsen.
And look at that surface - glassy smooth.
Not too shabby at all.

 Instead of the traditional japanning, these planes have a painted stippled finish that is quite pleasing to the eye. On these two planes it is still near complete after sixty odd years, showing little - if any - wear. Obviously this was a quality choice by the original manufacturers.

These are very good planes, and well worth using in any workshop.
It is a shame that they were produced for such a short period of time, and that there are so few out there.

Finally, it is great to take pride in the fact that they were made right here in Oz.
For anyone looking for a very well made, Australian-built handplane, these can still be found at Sunday Markets and online auctions.  Well worth the investment.

Happy shavings partners .....
.................... and happy woodworking to all ..............

Monday, April 16, 2012

Time Out and a Road Trip

We have had a week away from the village, catching up on family and friends.  It is always a pleasure to spend time with loved ones, and to meet new friends along the way.  Our sojourn took us south through Newcastle and Sydney to the Blue Mountains, then after a night with my lovely sister in Kurrajong - onward to the south west.
Bathurst, Carcoar, Cowra - then to Young.
Plenty of pix, of course.

The autumn (fall) weather was spectacular.  Even from the car window there was always something happening.

Carcoar is NSW second town established west of the Great Dividing Range, and is totally classified by the National Trust.  We love stopping here at any time, but April is colourfully splendid.

The old railway station hasn't been used for yonks, but still holds an air of elegance and grace.

It's been a while since the last train rattled along these tracks:

The use of wrought iron lacework and the attention to detail in the construction are a real delight.

The only construction happening at the moment is being done by the paper wasps as seen below:

The last of the summer grasses are starting to brown, but recent rains have brought forth a flush of late wildflower growth - before the frosts arrive to cover all in white.

As if this wasn't enough, the evening skies also entertained.

To top this all off, I discovered some great old tools and some fabulous timber.  More on those next time .....
.................... and happy woodworking to all .............

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Quick and Dirty - A Low Mobile Work Table ..........

......... or ........ What To Do With Leftovers - Part 2

While I was working on the jelly cabinet, I bemoaned the fact that I didn't have a low work table and I had to do a work around.

At the finish, I pressed into service a mobile base that I had made for my sander.

This worked so well that I decided to knock up a larger version.

A quick rummage through the wood boneyard turned up a couple of pieces of thick particleboard - cutouts from laundry sink installations.  These pieces are often discarded by the kitchen bench manufacturers, and make marvelous tops for little jobs like this one.

Sadly, mine were too small to use as a single piece, so some biscuit joinery was called for, and some astute placement of supports in the construction.

A few other particleboard leftovers and some solid core ply discards, and the mobile low work table began to take shape.

It couldn't be simpler - it's just a long box, held together by glue and particleboard screws.

To the base I added some heavy duty castors,  choosing a lockable pair for the front to stop it drifting away when working on top of it.

These terrific wheels are available at most hardware stores, but there is a little family hardware shop in Wauchope that sells them much cheaper than the big B, and I like to shop there.

The wheels are the fanciest part of this project

OK - here it is - not pretty, but ever so functional .

This has been a great opportunity to clean out some shed detritus, create some extra storage, and make something useful to boot.

Before I finish, just a word on the way that time taken to carry out thoughtful layout pays dividends at the end.  You might remember the sidewalk chalk and the layout lines from the jelly cabinet project.
Here's a reminder:

Done carefully, it produces very little waste.
Apart from sawdust and shavings, this is what was left when I was finished:

Not bad eh?

Somewhere in my wood stack, there is a rattus - corpus delicti, that had the singular bad taste to hide before karking-it.  I cannot find the corpse anywhere, and life in the shed is decidedly unpleasant. Quite inconvenient really! Not too convenient for the poor old rat either I suppose!
Nonetheless, I won't be doing much in the way of shed-work for some time, at least until nature takes its course, and the odour dissipates.

In the meantime,  happy rites of spring to our northern hemisphere cousins, and happy first-full-moon of the season to everyone else   .......................................

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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Elegant Jelly Cabinet - Construction Part 10 - Amish Design for Contemporary Use

Finishing the Door

Remember that hole in the door frame - caused by inattention. I had cut the mortice too deep and the tenon simply didn't fill it.  Turns out I had done it to both sides - so two fixes are needed.

Solution: Add more tenon.
It is about as elegant as I can be in this position.

And it worked fine - not conventional, but necessary.

One end done - now to do the other.  This time I thought I would cut the tenons first so that they wouldn't suffer the same skinny fate as before.
How hard could it be?

Guess who forgot to allow for the panel grooves.
Gnats with lobotomies don't make these kinds of mistakes.  A lesson in humility - AGAIN!
A frantic search of the workshop found  an offcut that will substitute as another rail. Saved!

The Australian Rosewood panel had to have its edges reduced to fit inside the groove in the frame.  I used a router with a dished bit and created a raised field in the middle of the rosewood.  This field sits at the same level as the frame, and the play of light and shadow between it and the frame is quite pleasing I think.
The groove needed some adjusting as well.  Good old side rebate plane to the rescue once more.  Long ago, before I acquired this plane, I could not have imagined how much use it would get.

Here is a trial fit:

Before assembling, I took the chance to break the inside edges of the frame with sandpaper - being careful not to round over any place where the edge formed a square joint.

When assembling, it is important to check for square. The easiest way is to measure diagonals to both sets of outside corners - luckily they were the same and the frame did not need racking.

Applying the Mouldings

 These had been made previously  and are to be fitted to both the top and the base.  When I tried them, they complemented the top very nicely, but looked too heavy for the base.  So the base mouldings were thinned down to a shadow of their former selves.

Fitting them is tricky.  Do them one corner at a time - and get it right before cutting the mitre on the other end. It always takes more of the moulding than your measurements will show.

I like to cut them over-long, and sneak back to the finished size in very thin increments.  You can never add length to an over-cut mitre.  What's that old saying:

 "...... Damn, ........... I've cut it twice - and it's still too short!" 


I deliberately start with the bottom moulding - if I'm going to make any errors that I have to learn from, it will be on the minor moulding, not the major one at the top.
 Trial fits are essential - especially in establishing the mitre. Sometimes 45 degrees will not work, and 46 is needed.
After lots of trial and error I clamp the front moulding, and and mark its position before adding glue.  It is amazing how slippery these can be with glue and clamps added, and the reference marks are then vital.
The others are done one at a time - there is nothing worse than gappy mitres that look like they need orthodontic help.

I only have enough soft-jawed clamps to keep any two mouldings in place, so while the second - at the base - is drying, I can make a start on the top.

Getting a grip on a sloping moulding can be difficult.  Here I use an offcut from the same profile, and reverse it to give a square surface for clamp adhesion.

The Finished Product

All rightee then ...........

Fit the feet ................................

............................    fit the door, clean up clamp marks and give everything a final sand.

I recently acquired a box of reproduction antique door handles from one of my woodworking associates, and one of these suits the door remarkably well.  Many thanks Bob.

Will it be a Jelly Cabinet?
No  ........................... not even a jam cupboard, or even a cabinet for preserves.
This is its heritage of course, as it hails from an Amish or Mennonite Furniture design - however here at Telview Hill, it will be used for storing board games and puzzles that we use with the grand children.

Now if the weather will only stay kind for a week or so I'll be able to attack the next project - repairing the gables .....

Joyful days and small mistakes .....................

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