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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chisels and Such

One of the most useful of our workshop tools is the humble chisel.  In historic terms, it is also one of the oldest in homo sapiens' toolbox.  From stone - through copper, bronze and iron - the modern steel chisel has a long heritage.  As woodworking has refined itself over the centuries, chisels have evolved into the variations on the chisel theme that we have today.

We now have bench chisels, butt chisels, paring chisels, dovetail chisels, mortice chisels, and all the variations of carving chisels that you can imagine.  There are likely to be other categories that I have left out.

You will find treatises on chisel types in numerous publications, so I won't go into them here, but the most common garden variety of chisels these days - is the bench chisels.  These are sold everywhere from hardware stores to specialist tool manufacturers, and usually in sets.

Here are some that are on offer at present:

These modern steel chisels can all trace their lineage back to something like this one - a chunky firmer chisel with a socket for the handle.
This one was made by Ward and Payne in Sheffield in England.

It is only one inch wide, but is a beast of a thing and quite heavy - even without the handle.

Modern bench chisels have bevelled edges, which helps reduce the weight of the chisels in the hand, giving them better balance.

To further reduce the mass of the chisel at the handle, it can be mounted with a tang like this old Robert Sorby - also made in Sheffield.

Here is a set of tanged bevelled edge chisels (except for the smallest which is too narrow to carry a bevel).  All of these are English - made in Sheffield, but from many years ago.   Most were made in the first half of the 20th century.  The majority of these handles are English London Pattern chisel handles.  They look lovely but are an acquired taste as far as comfort in the hand is concerned.

They take and hold a keen edge, and more than hold their own against their modern equivalents - when used for general woodworking. Belting holes in jarrah or spotted gum all day will pull them up, but very few of us do that.

Most of these are F Woodcocks (made between 1939 and 1957),  but there are plenty of quality English makers, whose chisels are just as good.  Here are some:

English Chisels
  • Robert Sorby
  • William Marples
  • Hale Bros
  • Charles Taylor
  • Edward Preston
  • S J Addis
  • Lindley
  • Herring
  • Pearson
  • Ward and Payne
  • Alex Mathieson (Scottish)
  • Brades
  • F Woodcock
  • Greaves
  • Thomas Ibbotson
  • I & H Sorby

The best English steel was made from Swedish ore, and has some of those same qualities as the famed, and widely sought after Swedish steel chisel makers - Berg, Jernbolaget, Kronan, Toledo.  Sadly, older English chisels are overlooked in this country, except by those who know how good they are.  Not in the UK of course, where they are still valued.

The point is, that old English chisels are not the flavour of the month here in Australia - either at Sunday Markets or online auction sites. They are cheap, and excellent value for money.  It is easy to put together a set of English bench chisels for very little outlay.

I have put together this set over many years.  If I was doing this again, I would concentrate on the makers in bold type simply from personal preference, and the fact that I consider them to be the best in their class - but there is not much in it.  It may take quite some time to put together a set from the same maker, but a composite set like mine could be done at one Sunday market - for around the cost of a single new 1 inch chisel from the links above.

Because E A Berg - Sweden - chisels are often used as a benchmark for fine steel in old chisels, I will add a link for more information.
For a short history of E A Berg and his steel product making ventures - see here:
E A Berg

Enjoy Your Break
I will be taking a break from The Village Woodworker Blog for a few weeks, while I attend to other matters.  You will have an enforced break from the happenings in this neck of the woods.  Enjoy .....

I hope that your segue from autumn to winter - (late spring to summer for our northern cousins) is full of the joys of the season .....................
.................... and happy woodworking to all .........................

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ukes Are Go ......

............... yep, just like the Thunderbirds ..............

One of the greatest aspects of living in a small community is .... well ...... living in a small community.  Telegraph Point is tiny, but has a vibrant community culture.

Apart from Book Group, our own local library, Singing Group, community dinners and BBQ's, fitness group, and pub karaoke, there is the Wednesday night Ukulele Group.

A more zany bunch of pluckers, you are unlikely to meet - from diverse backgrounds, but with a passion for that oxymoron - Ukulele Music.

My stupid camera has a flash delay - that's why everyone looks like a deer in the headlights - but you get the idea.  Of course - the empty wine glasses might also account for that.

One of our inspirations is The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - Oh that we might emulate them one day!
Their rendition of the old Talking Heads song Psycho Killer is mind-blowingly great.  It is one song that we love murdering whenever we can.

Ukes come in all shapes and sizes, the most common, in our group anyway, are the tenor sized ukes. That little maroon one (above) is a soprano - and I play a concert.

Anatomy of a Ukulele

Here is my concert ukulele - a Kanani - beside the LOML's  Lanikai which is a tenor. The body of the tenor is longer and deeper, and it has a longer neck.

Building a Ukulele
Tonewoods are something that have  taken my interest since I decided to build a Ukulele. Now this is totally new woodworking territory for me, so I am in the process of researching methods and materials. I think that I will build a tenor ukulele, as it is the largest with standard uke stringing.

There is a larger baritone uke, but it requires different chord sets, and that may be a bridge and nut too far at this stage.

My Kanani is made of solid Koa - both body and soundboard, and the Lanikai has a spruce soundboard and mahogany body.  Both have rosewood fret-boards.

The roundup of materials will now begin.  I have some African blackwood that will make a good fretboard, and I am going to try western red cedar as the soundboard.

This western red cedar came from panels from my brother in law's kitchen demolition.  Under the paint was some lovely straight grain.

Other ukulele soundboard tonewood timbers that I have a little of, and am considering, are:
  • mango
  • blackwood
  • huon pine
  • black heart sassafras
  • Australian cedar
  • Queensland maple
  • Tasmanian myrtle

I am still mulling over timber for the body, but am thinking maybe blackwood...... hmmmm ...

This task will take some time I think.

In the meantime, here is the song that I took to Uke group last night ..... a blast from the past ..........
Let's just say that - while I love it, ......... ............... is growing on the others ....................

Happy uke-ing .....
.... and happy woodworking to all ...............

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Doo Doo Doo, Looking Out My Back Door ........... *

* .... no, not John Fogarty, or even the Salvador Dali-esqe images from the old Creedence song .....

....... just some of the beauty that constantly surrounds us, and which it sometimes takes a stunning autumnal day to remind us of ............

Here, the native dahlias peek over the top of a bird-sown cottoneaster.  Poor old dahlias always bloom at the end of summer, and try to get their seed making done before the winds pick up and blow down their fragile stems. Ours can be five to six metres (20 feet) high.

Cottoneaster berries are a vital food source for birds in hard times, and as winter draws on and other food is scarce.  Silver-eyes love them, but they also support our local satin bowerbirds, who eat everything.  It will be a month or so before we see them.

Boxwood, as used in old quality tool handles, is hard to get these days.  Cottoneaster timber is often used as a substitute - not quite as tough, but very similar in colour.

Cottoneaster flowers here a foodsource for the native bees during the warmer months. Native bees are tiny, (they are the fly-spots around the mouth of the hive below) and they are very laid-back.  They won't even come out of their hive unless the temperature reaches 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 deg F)

Here is our little native bees hive - sitting on our veggie garden fence-post.  They are great pollinators and the garden benefits from them enormously.

They produce small amounts of very rich honey.  We'll leave them the fruits of their summer labour, as they will need it to get them through the winter.  Next year we'll get some honey from them, and maybe divide the hive.

Here they sit above one of the last of the summer pumpkins.  This is a jap - one of the tastiest pumpkins in the whole pumpkin family IMHO - anyway they are my favourite and are fantastic in a baked meal.

The LOML has created her own little bamboo garden, and it is showing off some of the bromeliads which are in flower at present.

As well as the broms, the elkhorn ferns have done well and are growing on the small trees at the back.

This monster is growing a little further back.

Compared to her works of bamboo art,  mine are very rough and ready, and a sort of -in your face clumping type. Oldhami and painted bamboo are the two that I have planted.

Of course the liquid ambers are also responding to the season, and are beginning to change into their autumn coats.

Not a patch on what our cousins in the colder climates see, but a pleasant reminder of that riot of colour that happens in the northern hemisphere during their Fall.

While we all rejoice in the palette that the change of seasons presents us, nothing gladdens the heart like a growing woodpile to help ward off the coming winter chill.

My woodwork lately has been cutting and stacking firewood.  I did notice during these chores that some of the wood chunks had very pleasing grain, but I was too tired to do anything but keep throwing the pieces on the pile.  I made a silent promise that I would go back as the pile diminished and fish them out ............
..... I have a feeling that this is one promise that I may not keep ...............

 There is something about the smell of fresh split firewood that bodes well for the winter.

May your autumn senses be filled to capacity and your cup of joy overflow ............

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