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, November 17, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Lumber?

A question that we all have to address as woodworkers is one of supply.
Where do we source our timber?
This is a question that I am often asked, and as recently as this morning I fielded a telephone call specifically on this topic.
The obvious places, such as hardware stores and trade timber yards are fine for construction projects, but the choices are limited and prices are high.
My own experiences might be a help in guiding others to find cheaper outlets with wider variety.


This is a generic "species" term that all my woodie mates use to describe "found" timbers.  The species vary - but usually include branch loppings, storm damaged trees, the results of noxious tree removal, or maintenance clearing.
We have a beautiful timber here on the coast called camphor-laurel, that is a declared noxious tree and is slated for removal everywhere.  This is often available free for the collecting.
I usually keep a lookout for this kind of timber, and people know that I am interested in their tree loppings from yard clean-ups as well.

Eucalyptus train-iata

Our club house - Hastings Woodworkers Guild - is situated in Timbertown, Wauchope and this hosts a working steam train.  Daily, this steam engine uses eucalypt offcuts from numerous mills in the area.  I have lost count of the number of times a beautiful piece from the log-pile has been turned into a box or a bowl.
There are numerous wood-heaps around that are either firewood, demolitions, furniture factory offcuts etc.  All of these can yield timber for small projects.

Mills and Lumber Yards

The numbers of these wonderful hives of industry are shrinking, but there are still timber mills to be found if you look.
They are worth the drive as the selections are wide and the prices are better than retail.
We are lucky enough to have several mills within an hour's drive of here, and the outing is an experience to be savoured.

Here is a one-day outing that we did recently to Botique Timbers of Rollands Plains.

A 50HP bandsawmill makes short work of slabbing this camphor-laurel log.

 Some of the club members add scale to the size of the milling equipment

At Botique Timbers, the slabbed lumber is air-dried in the open - usually covered in old galvanised iron sheeting.  This leads to some interesting warping occasionally, but the timbers are normally surprisingly straight and stable.

Burls - yes there were plenty for the bowl turners to select from.  These are normally sold by the kilogram - unlike the slabbed lumber - which is sold by the usable super-foot, or board-foot as our US cousins call it.
This is a quirky mix of metric and imperial calculations, but we have learned to be at home with them.

Advice is freely given and discussion often ensues ..........

...................... disagreements are handled with diplomacy and skill .................

 A close-up of the bandsaw mill in action - here it is just finishing the cut as the log slides past it.

Discussions about the merits of an unknown timber can arouse interest.  This is a piece of snakewood which became very popular after the briefing ................

I source much of my timber from this mill, as it is only about a half hour from my home and I have known Mal - the owner - for over twenty years.  This outing, which I organised for the club members, might just see them coming back for re-supply of their own timber needs.

I came home with a few lovely West African makore boards and some hairy oak.

A great day indeed

Friday, November 7, 2014

130,000 Visitors - How did this happen?

Time and Tides

Time has passed - three years now - as my woodworking has developed alongside music (ukulele) and a renewed interest in photography.
Serendipitously, it was the photography of the items and processes that I have written about, that re-awakened the photography genie.
It has long been an interest and at times a passion - from my first serious camera - Canon FTb - to the present.

I have tried to share aspects of my own life journey that I thought interesting enough to post.
Of course so much has been omitted.

An accidental introduction to ukulele three years ago has blossomed into a weekly jam, uke-making and several concerts - the next on November 30.

Photography has taken me back into the companionship of fellow shutter-bugs, competition and judging.

And my woodwork morphs around these interests, my family, grandkids and life in general.
Last weekend my youngest son married the love of his life and it was a celebration of family, friendship and hope for the future.

Life always has its ups and downs, but the secret to happiness is - in my view anyway - quite simple:

Have someone to love,
Have something meaningful to do,
and ...........
Have something to look forward to

May your journey be as rewarding as mine, your joys memorable and your problems small.
Happy trails

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 14 - The Finishing Touches

Final Steps

  1. Lacquering
  2. Fitting the tuners
  3. Stringing
  4. Play
I have used Mirotone spray lacquer  for this finish.
Because mango is such an open grained timber, I first gave it two coats of sanding sealer followed by Mirocat three coats.

 The beauty of this finish is that it is dry enough for re-coating after 15 minutes.
A light sand of 400 grit paper between coats was all that was needed.

The tuners are added to the head. I had previously spent time drilling out the tuner holes before the lacquering took place.  This gave a handy hook hole to hang the instrument while spraying.

The headstock has come up rather beautifully with the application of the lacquer

Adding ths strings is done incrementally, and the nut and bridge are adjusted for height to keep the strings at an appropriate height above the frets and to prevent buzzing.

I had to sand the back of both to lower the action before I was happy with it.

And finally - here is the finished product.
It is a super-tenor ukulele, as the scale length is 19 inches.

The intonation is spot on, with the 12th fret exactly an octave higher than open string tuning.
It has plenty of sustain and volume, and I will be looking forward to playing it once the strings stretch and keep their tuning, and the timber settles down and gets bedded in.

Happy trails partners

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 13 - Nearly There


I decided that the inlaid fretboard would be too busy aesthetically on this mango timber, and have opted instead for a straight plain-jane variety, with simple fret-marker inlays of mother of pearl (MOP)
Marking out the fretboard is very easy once the length of scale is known.
This wonderful online calculator is invaluable:

I mark mine with a scribing knife before cutting them with a narrow-kerf tenon saw.
While the piece of African blackwood is still square,  I mark the positions for the MOP markers - frets 3, 5, 7, 10 and 12 in this case.
These are glued in place and left to dry before cutting the tapers on the fretboard sides to match the existing neck.

Fret-wire is simply hammered into position in the grooves cut by the tenon saw, and snipped to size with a pair of side-cutters.

This little wooden mallet works very well.

A square file is used to trim the overhanging fret-wire from the edges.

When flush, the top edges are filed at 45 degrees to create a chamfer on the corners of the frets themselves.

I find it easiest to do this on a sanding mat that holds the fretboard in place while I file.
There isn't a lot of room for big fingers, so any assistance is welcome.
Once this is complete, I will seat all of the fret-wires with a straight board and an iron hammer to ensure that they are all straight and parallel to each other.

Here is a trial fit with the bone nut in place to see how well everything is coming together.  I don't glue the bone nut in at this stage, as it may need adjusting in height after the bridge is added - to obtain the correct playing action for the strings.

I have selected a piece of Indian rosewood for the headstock, and this has been glued over the laminated head to add a little beauty - and to hide the strip laminations.

I add tape alongside the end of the fretboard to cover the body from excess glue squeeze-out.  It is also a handy fitting guide when the fretboard is glued in place.

Here we are with the glued fret-board held in place by spring-clamps.  Notice that the bone nut is here to establish the fretboard position - it is removed once the clamps are all secure, as I don't want stray glue fixing it in position just yet.

Here we are then - all but finished.
I will next mark out and drill the holes for the headstock tuners.
Only the bridge to add, then follow that with final sanding and finishing.
Nearly there ................

Friday, October 3, 2014

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 12 - The Parts Come Together

Well, it has been quite a while -  what a marathon - haha.
OK, here we go with the fitting of the back, the front and the neck.
The bridge will be added last to assure that it is square to the main axis of the instrument, as well as the precise distance from the nut for tuning.

The back is fitted first, and acts as a brace for the body while the other parts are glued in place.
The neck has to be fitted before the front (the soundboard).  This is because it is so much easier to trim and fit the neck tenon into its mortice, without the attendant problems of working around a covered in top.
There is enough space for clamps and it is simply easier to accomplish.

The soundboard (the top) also has to align with the upper surface of the neck as the fretboard will be glued over both of these.
So they must finish in the same plane.

I use a scrap of wood from the top as a guide to setting the height of the neck above the body - leaving space for the soundboard.

Once the neck and the front are securely glued in place, the fretboard will be added.
Here is a trial fit.

The position of the bridge determines where the re-inforcing will be glued on the back of the soundboard.

The re-inforcing strips are simply scrap pieces from the body construction which will be glued with the grain running at right angles to the grain of the soundboard.

Here they are in position prior to glue and clamp.

Laying Out the Fretboard
.............this will be the next task while the glued parts are drying.

The final tasks will include:
  1. Final sanding
  2. Lacquering and finishing
  3. Fitting the headstock tuners
  4. Stringing ...... and
  5. Voila ............... playing

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bruce Wei Ukuleles - A Follow-Up Review

Bruce Wei Ukuleles - A Follow-Up Review

It is now around two years since I reviewed a range of ukuleles made in Vietnam under the Bruce Wei label.
The original review is to be found here:

Bruce Wei Ukuleles - A Small Review 

 Over the intervening period, my ukulele playing has felt most comfortable on tenor sized ukes so these are the ones that have had the most use.
I have onsold to other ukulele lovers all other sized - soprano and concert ukes - that I have owned and I am left with just two Bruce Wei tenors.



This is one tenor that has really grown on me.  It has an Indian rosewood body and a spruce soundboard together with a maple neck.


There were many online criticisms of Vietnamese and Taiwan-made instruments some years ago, based around some perceived lack of longevity in the construction.  Specifically some users claimed that the glue joints were prone to cracking or some such.



I have never seen any evidence of this and as can be seen from these images, the instrument is still superb in its appearance.  This uke has been played many times each week - at uke groups, workshops and concerts and it looks as good as it did when new.

Even the little details like the inlay, have not shown any signs of deterioration - something that happens on cheaper instruments over time.  
As it has aged, and with playing, it has really matured in sound producing a "rounder" and warmer tone with some growth in volume and sustain. 

My favourite instrument has grown to be the Bruce Wei 8 string tenor ukulele that I purchased around Xmas of 2012.
This one is made from solid mahogany - both body and soundboard - again with maple neck and a beautiful Indian Rosewood headstock.

Neither it nor the regular tenor came with bindings as part of the body, but I notice that some of the newer Bruce Wei instruments are now offering this feature.

The inlay details are as good as before and the finish superb.

Most importantly however, is the sound.  This instrument is such a joy to play.  No buzzing, perfect intonation and a wonderful depth of sound from those Aquila strings.

It came with a very busy fretboard inlay which at first I did not like for its complexity - I prefer simpler inlays - but now I don't notice it.  It does attract a lot of comment from other ukers and audience members of course.

I thought that after some years these comparatively cheap (to buy) instruments would start to show some limitations and failings.
I could not have been more wrong.
These are high quality ukuleles built to an excellent standard.
They are sounding truly wonderful, and as a value for money instrument cannot be surpassed in my humble opinion.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Old Tools With Strange Trademarks

I was recently sent a request from a keen woodworker inquiring about the ancestry of a certain chisel.
It was an obscure trademark and unclear forging stamp that had him puzzling.
Here is the original correspondence:

Chisel Hallmark:



I had seen the logo before, as I have a plane blade manufactured by the same company, but the language was near indecipherable.
Here is the follow up picture:

 The logo should be familiar to any motoring enthusiast.
It is this one:

 Yes, the same company that makes these beautiful cars has been in existence for over 200 years as a steel maker.  It has had steel foundries in France since 1810.

Here are its historical logos with dating.

As for the inscription on the chisel - 
Even though it is quite worn, it reads:


Which in English reads:

Peugeot Brothers
Cast (literally - molten) Steel 

Now these steel products are not common across the Commonwealth of Australia, but are certainly the equivalent of some of the English and US tools of the same period.

My friend should be very happy with his find, as it will give many years of satisfying service - and as a bonus is a link to toolmaking history after the Industrial Revolution.

Happy shavings my friend


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fixing Your Mistakes - How to Repair an Unwanted Mortice

It happens to everyone sooner or later - that moment of lapsed concentration or simple tiredness that results in a seeming catastrophe.
We should listen to our bodies more - when the body is saying enough - and we decide that we will do just that little bit more - we create the circumstances for errors to occur.

Happened to me a few days ago at the end of the day (of course - haha)
I had cut the legs for a hall table, and had decided that it wouldn't take long to cut the mortices before I finished for the day.

The first three legs went swimmingly.  It was the final leg that ended with the same number of mortices as the other three - only one of them was on the wrong face of the leg.
That sinking feeling started when I realised that I did not have any more thick stock to make a replacement leg.
What to do?
  1. Put it down
  2. Turn off the power
  3. Close the workshop for the day
  4. Make a cup of tea and just sit a while
By the next day I had figured a solution and decided to document it for anyone else caught like I was.
First step was to cut the mortice where it should have been the first time.
Secondly - make a matching infill piece to hide that errant mortice.

Here is the offending leg with one too many mortices.
The correct mortice was cut while the leg is still square.  Now to fix the extra one.

First step is to find some matching timber.  Here I have an offcut from the current project.
The timber is silky oak.

Of course, being an offcut, it is a little rough around the edges - so some truing with my 5-1/2 plane is called for.

I am going to make a fill piece that will hopefully not be noticed too much when finished.

I am cutting this over-sized as I want to taper the plug for a tight fit.

I start by using my plane (Lie Neilsen 5-1/2 in this case) and slope one side of the tapered plug.

Next, I cut the other side at a similar taper using a rip saw - this is an Atkins.

More planing after the cut is made - and here is the tapered plug

Trial fit........

The end is rounded following the circle drawn with a pair of compasses.
Note that the circular end is also tapered.

Looks pretty snug .......

Glue-up and clamp overnight.
Trim to size and plane back flush with the surface.

Here is another shot with the colour subdued.

Bob's your uncle!
And here is the finished table awaiting lacquer:

My workshop is sooooo dusty and shavings-covered, that the lacquering will take place on the back verandah - when the wind stops (haha)

Happy shavings to all