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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Rites of Spring - with apologies to Stravinsky

The Village in Springtime is a hive of activity and a cradle for new life.
Foggy mornings are the harbingers of beautiful balmy days, and although we need rain, the weather is just too pleasant to begrudge the sunshine.

From the bedroom window .....

Last year's wallaby joey has struck out on its own, and the jill has given birth to another one - just like it was twelve months ago.  She is back to the patch of level ground outside our lounge room window, where she spends the night.

The joey only leaves the pouch for short intervals, and is soon back inside.

Springtime also means that the Hastings Woodworkers Guild Annual Show and Exhibition is just around the corner.  It is all systems go, to get things ready and items finished.
The ukulele is almost done.

 Adding the fret-wires

Fretwire comes in rolls or lengths. This pack came by the pound, in 12 inch lengths.  It is the narrower type - suitable for ukuleles and mandolins.

 After cutting to length and seating gently, the frets are hammered home with a block of flat wood to keep them all level.  I swiped the bottom of each fret wire with a small smear of epoxy - to hold them fast. Epoxy is better than super glue, I think, because it gives more working time, and getting the fret wires level isn't such a rush.

Once seated and dry, the edges have to be filed level, and then bevelled.  This angled file does a great job.  Once finished, I glued the fretboard to the neck and body, before applying the finishing coats of shellac and lacquer.

I have had no end of trouble with the shellac finish.  Six coats were applied without incident, but from the seventh coat onwards, I have had an opaque milky finish appear after drying - and it looks horrible.
After washing with alcohol and sanding, additional coats dried no better, and I was becoming very discouraged.
One of the old hands at the Woodies Shed suggested drying it quickly after an application, by using a hair drier.
Success! Of course the girls aren't happy that the hair drier is down at the shed, but hey - get your priorities right!

The surface dries clean, and is gaining the gloss of finished shellac.
It is at the point (15 or 16 coats - not sure) where I can't see any improvement from successive coats, so I will leave it there and lacquer the neck, before stringing it.

Next post, I'll show off the finished ukulele, as well as some of the items I'll be putting in the HWWG Exhibition.

In the meantime here is an excerpt from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring:
This ballet caused a riot when it was first performed in 1913. It begins with bassoon - I wonder if he considered beginning with ukulele .........

The full score is HERE

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spring Days and Ukulele Nights

Where does time go?
The weather here has been fickle - some stunningly beautiful spring days, mixed with winds carrying dust and smoke from hazard reduction burns.

The ukulele is still getting its layerings of shellac when weather permits.
The Hastings Woodworkers Guild is keeping me busy as well.

We retrieved some fallen timber that we will mill in our Club bandsawmill.
These logs are eucalyptus grandis - also known as flooded gum or rose gum.
Only found along parts of the east coast of Australia, this was a rare and lucky acquisition for us.

The tree blew down in a wind storm earlier this year, and has awaited collecting since then.

Rose gum is a beautiful, straight grained pink to red timber, that is easily worked and gives a lovely finish.
My friend and singing (a cappella - base/tenor) partner - Ken - seen here directing operations on the back of the truck, donated the timber - and our club is extremely grateful.

Adrian organised Peter and his truck for the pickup and delivery.
Events for the club are coming thick and fast as well. We have had weekend after weekend doing demonstrations and publicising our upcoming wood show - Port Panthers Auditorium - 5,6 & 7th October.
Here are some of the woodies at last weekend's antique fair over at Wauchope:

On this occasion we were demonstrating pen-making, and scroll saw work. Chris takes a turn ........

Rod regales a visitor about the qualities of hairy oak ................

In between, there has been Uke-night - (an absolute hoot this week), local meetings, and all the regular things that make up life at the moment.
I am itching to see the ukulele finished, and find out what it sounds like.

In the meantime here is some Taimane Gardner to blow you away:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Carter Australia Hand Planes - A Small Review

I have been wanting to write some comments on Carter hand planes for some time, ever since I wrote about Falcon Popes.

Another vital part of Australia's tool making history belongs to Carter Tools Pty Ltd Australia.
The building boom following World War 2, and the worldwide shortage of tools, led to the establishment of several Australian tool manufacturing companies.

Carter Tools Pty Ltd was a Sydney company that provided bench planes, G clamps, sash cramps, vices, hatchets, brass plumbobs, pipe cutters, bench screws, hand routers, vernier centre finders, and much other urgently needed tooling to a market hungry for them.  Only in business for a little over 20 years, Carter's products came and went quickly.

Several Carter handplanes have come my way over the years, and it seems appropriate to give them a short review, as they still surface (heh heh) at markets and garage sales.

  One interesting aspect of Carter Hand Plane manufacturing, was the way that the company sub-contracted out the casting work to different foundries around the Sydney area.  Because of this, there are often differences in both shape and quality among Carter planes - even those of the same model.

Even the frog castings show differences in design - perhaps reflecting the variations from the different foundries.  The Number 06 fore plane at the top shows a different frog and base casting from the others.

All frogs have the looped lateral adjustment lever - a simple and effective design.
None of them have the frog fore and aft adjuster screw that was found on Stanley planes, and copied by both the Falcon Pope and Turner handplanes that were also made in Australia.  Just like Sargent hand planes in the United States, Carter decided that their planes didn't need them.
This simplified the castings for both frog and base.

Three of these planes have brass depth adjuster wheels, while the number 06 fore plane has an aluminium depth adjuster.

All handles are made from Australian hardwood - normally coachwood - and all are painted with black enamel.

The handle on the 4-1/2 has been through the wars, and has lost its spur - as well as showing a crack across the middle.  These wounds were not uncommon, given the tough lives that these tools often led.  Bouncing around in a tool box from one building site to the next, can cause damage and always takes a toll on appearance.

All have their original Carter blades except for the 4-1/2, which has one made by John Shaw of Sydney.

John Shaw produced plane blades, HSS tip bronzed to the main body of blade.  There isn't much left of this one, but a comparison with other similar blades shows how long it probably was when new.

Here are two blades with HSS tips bronzed to the main body.  The first was made by Titan and the second made by Stanley - probably after they took over the the Titan Manufacturing Co Pty Ltd.  Interestingly, only Stanley Australia seems to have made such blades, and not any other Stanley enterprise from any other country.  This makes me think that it was an Australia-only phenomenon - and one probably started by John Shaw and copied by Titan - to be continued by Stanley when they bought out Titan.

 The Carter blades are all much thicker than a standard Stanley blade, and all are very close to 3mm thick.  This is more than 30% thicker than the standard Stanley offering.

The reason for this is probably to be found in the design of the frog.  All Carter frog castings have support for the blade only at the very top, and the very bottom.

Compare that to the bedding for the blade provided by Falcon Pope and older Stanley frogs.  There is blade support there - all the way from the top to the bottom of the frog.

The thought occurs to me that the Carter design allows for less exactitude in casting, since only the top and bottom faces need machining to the one plane in order to bed the blade.  This would save time, and allow the frog castings from different foundries to be finished off with minimum grinding.  A simple solution to the obvious quality control issues attached to multiple castings from multiple foundries.

An ordinary thinner Stanley-type blade would likely experience induced chatter with a frog design like this.  The Carter blades, being so much thicker, resist this chatter and cut quite well - even with such a frog.  Of course, their extra thickness also makes them popular with woodworkers - as replacement blades in other makes of bench plane.

The bodies of the Carter planes are robust, and usually of thicker and heavier dimensions than the equivalent Stanley.

Comparing the cheek thickness of Carter number 5's and number 4-1/2's with those of a Stanley, the variations of Carter's foundry castings are apparent.  The carter 4-1/2 is particularly odd, with one cheek significantly thinner than the other.

Here are two number 4 planes - one Carter, the other a Stanley.  The differences in length and thickness are obvious.  The Carter is significantly larger, even though it has the same width blade as the Stanley - 2 inches.

All of this translates into extra mass - the Carter is nearly a pound heavier.  It is also not as refined as the Stanley.  Here it is up close:

Surprisingly, it can still be set up to function as a tolerably good smoothing plane.  A sharp blade and a tight mouth can produce quite reasonable results.

Here is a piece of Australian rosewood that has first been dressed by a Carter number 5, followed by the Carter number 4 smoother.  The grain was swirling and in places a little tricky.  The Carters did a presentable job on it.

Apart from the minor tear-out shown, the remainder was glassy smooth.

Carter handplanes were made to fill a niche in the building industry, at a time when anything was better than nothing, and they were turned successfully to cabinetry as well.  In these tasks they performed creditably.  They are a mixed bunch, with some examples being very well made, and others a little rough and ready.  Time has moved on, and consistently better made examples of handplanes have appeared and become commonplace.

For all that, Carters are somewhat rarer than others, simply because they were manufactured for such a short time.  A good one is well worth having as a working tool in any workshop - others may only be added to collections as historical footnotes.

The blades are something else again.
I have never come across a bad one, and the extra thickness is appreciated by hand plane enthusiasts, and those who want good performance from their plane - no matter the brand.  If you get a chance to own a Carter blade - jump at it.

Are Carter planes worth buying?
It may end up being a good one - or - it may just be your little part of Australian toolmaking history.
Either way, the blade alone will be worth the purchase.

For more on Carter Tools including other planes, follow this link to the
Hand Tool Preservation Association Of Australia

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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Building a Ukulele - Part 10 - Applying the Shellac Finish

The first ever - Riverside Ukuleles - tenor ukulele has been completed - to the point where the shellac finish to the body can be applied.  This will be a time consuming process.
Here it is after four coats:

Up to this point the shellac has been applied with a brush.
After six coats I will change to a soft pad, and it will be Karate Kid style - wax-on ....
And the front ................

The fretboard has had the mother of pearl (MOP) fretmarkers inlaid into the top, and the side markers inlaid  as well ....... remember those knitting needles ......

I think I'll give the fretboard a waxed finish after it is glued on - wait and see ........

Now this shellac-ing is sometimes referred to as French polish, but it seems that French polish was bees wax based, and that shellac was actually an English finish - who'd - a - thought.
The process is going to take some time, so I'll spare you the wait .......

In the meantime, enjoy some Brittni Paiva ..

... and even if you don't live in Alaska .... Uke-on ............!!!!!!!