Planing not.

Left the planes at home today when I needed an 16″x5″ planed board. But I did have the axe and draw knife.imageimageGah, who needs a plane?

imageOn with the job…imageMostly carved anyway. Just needs to fit together…


Second iPad in one year, hope the case is as tough as it claims to be.

Now need to stain (very dark I think) and oil, and then a few Sugru feet, I’ve drilled four holes to hold ’em, then I won’t need to put it on a mat on the table!.

Mind you those edges look a little bare, perhaps a simple running pattern, maybe the one I found in Beverley Minster.


Safety mortising

I have always rather struggled with making mortices. Tenons are less of a problem.  Getting the waste out of the mortice hole and avoiding bruising the shoulders was always a challenge. Having made a couple of handfuls of M&T joints on the joined stool following P Folansbee Esq’s advice, I have more confidence in setting out and bashing away at the chisel, and now I can produce a reasonably sharp mortice chisel.  However, I have refined my own technique a little.  Following an expensive break out of the side of a stool leg mortice I now cramp the sides to avoid accidents.

SAMSUNG CSCLooks a little industrial I realise, but essentially the wooden screw cramp is holding the sides of the stool leg in its grip.  Because the leg is pentagonal (more later) I need a V-block (thanks David) in the cramp as well.  Then one holdfast is pinning the cramp to the bench.  Just to make sure everything is good and solid I have another holdfast pinning down the leg itself. (Blimey!  That chisel edge looks rather close to the holdfast – Ed).

Now then (as we like to say in Yorkshire), the softener under the second holdfast comes in very handy as a sacrificial fulcrum for the chisel, thus saving the edge of the mortice.

SAMSUNG CSCThis gives me leave to get some muscle into the mallet and extract large amounts of waste in one go and speed the whole process up.

SAMSUNG CSCOK that’s actually the top end of the mortice which is not seen as it will be inside the joint.  I now also appreciate how important it is to start off using the chisel with the bevel facing the ends of the mortice, makes levering out the waste much easier, and then using the flat side when approaching the shoulders and then turning it round again to lever out the waste at the ends, so the fulcrum is the top end of the bevel which is down in the hole, not at the shoulder.

I have also filed a mark on the chisel at 1 and 3/8ths for 1 and 1/4 inch tenons.  This makes getting the correct depth much easier.

SAMSUNG CSCSeems to work.

SAMSUNG CSCIt was quite a worry working out what the shape of the legs should be for a joined three-legger.  I did lots of drawing on charcoal bags and test leg end grain, but finally reverted to schoolboy geometry, or what I remembered of it.

SAMSUNG CSCThe angle of the nose is very off-putting when starting from square timber and using one only of the square corners.  I have about 2 weeks to finish this stool for a competition, but at the end of today I have all the aprons fitting properly  and the top nearly done, and the rails ready for making the second tenons.  Phew.

It was Harlow Carr‘s Taste of Autumn last weekend, which was a really good event, lots of visitors and fine weather (apart from a little rain on the Saturday morning, which we won’t mention).

Owen Jones MBE was there making his beautiful and very practical swill baskets.  I must say his shelter is very enviable for its small size (mind you he doesn’t have to accommodate a flippin’ pole lathe).

SAMSUNG CSCWe were also delightfully entertained by the Barrow Band singing their hearts out about fruit and veg.

SAMSUNG CSCIt was a grand taste of Autumn (even tastier if I can get the Shitake inoculated log to bear fruit).


Get a new head & make a spoon

I’m trying to refine my spoon carving skills.  Making spoons is not my main day job, and I’ve had slow sales, then in the last week, I’ve sold three, taken an order for an engraved one and had the best one I ever made stolen (it was made from a crooked branch and was a cranked ladle with a pointed pouring lip – birch, if you see it, smack its bum and send it home, it had a hook on the back to hang it off the side of a pot – here it is:


I’m going to concentrate on making this spoon as seen in the above series.  Pretty small and thin and with endless opportunities for decorations at the top (the commissioned one will have  a hazel nut, echoing the wood type).

There is no Summer in the UK this year – the Jet Stream has gone on holiday apparently! However, the meadowy sides of the road into Bolton Abbey don’t seem to mind, these spotted orchids have grown very tall:

I’ve been making the shave horse modification as  Peter Galbert has neen kindly telling us about.

I got to the final stages today

Planing the base of the bed – from sweet chestnut.  Look how you can hold a piece of wood.  Holdfast at the far end. A dog underneath to slope it 10 degrees (or 1″ in 4″, I believe) and a dog aside, to stop the work wandering about the bench. It looks so rough as I was using the scrub plane.  Finished it off with the jointer.

I did some glueing yesterday. This is the leg with the ratchet.  Notice the filled tooth where I drilled for a dowel in the wrong place whilst talking to a passerby.  I don’t use steel cramps much but they were very useful this time, and here’s a wooden one …

Blimey!  Bit of an bondage moment, but these pieces are very technical.  The wooden cramp is great.  I tried to make one (an other unfinished project).  They work so well , I must make some more.  I acquired this one at The Bodgers’ Ball this year in Devon.

This is the old horse stripped down readying for the new Smarthead (© Peter Galbert).

The slot needed enlarging:

I noticed the original cut-out was done with the chainsaw, I was a bit quieter this time and chopped it out.

That’s about as far as I got as I managed to break the top-toothed member in testing.  I’d used ash and the gluing hadn’t taken (lousy planing I’m afraid t have to blummin’ admit (again)).  I’ll be remaking it in elm – no way that’ll split.

Watch this space but I’m off work for a week now, breaking in my new clogs

… so don’t hold your breath.


Hold fast aside

Planing long board edges is just what holdfasts are ideal for.  The great thing about holdfasts is that they can be installed anywhere you can drill the hole for them to jam in, in this case in the bench apron.  Much quicker than making a leg/shoulder vice and support pegs in a leg.  The other advantage is that the holdfasts support the board before you’ve tightened them up, as you can see in the photo one is fastened up and the other is just in the hole supporting awaiting my turning it and tightening it up with the mallet.

I also got two old wooden planes set up to work.  I’d been struggling with these for a while, one problem being that the jointer had a bent cap iron so the shavings were constantly getting stuck between it and the plane knife. I bought a second-hand cap iron, it’s 2 1/2 inches wide which seems to be a bit unusual now, and no new cap irons that wide seemed to be available.  That solved the shavings problem.

The other problem I had was setting the thickness of cut.  I watched a very instructive video by David Finck on Fine  Woodworking and realised that I was jamming the wedge in far too hard.  I’ve started using a little gavel I made a while ago and the planes are much more manageable now – and the bonus is no more blisters on the side of my right hand from the metal plane I used to use.


When in New York I visited Tools for Working Wood in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  After a chat with the proprietor, Joel, I purchased two holdfasts as pictured at top in the above picture.  These fine tools hold work fast against the surface of the bench so it can be worked.  In the above a small elm seat for a child’s chair is being held for working up with a travisher that I acquired at Wild About Wood this year.  Joel tells me that holdfasts fell into disuse in the middle of the 19th century when vices took their place.  I suppose shaving horses ought to have disappeared at the same time, but as we know they are such a right tool for the right job that the shave horse never died out.  I think there’s a case to be made for the holdfast, simple to use, relatively cheap ($31.95 for a pair from Joel’s), looks the part, and like an Apple, just works.  Nothing to go wrong.  Just drill 3/4″ holes in your bench wherever required, put a softener between the holdfast and the work (above the holdfasts are seated on what will be a waste section of the wood) and knock it on the head with a mallet.  To loosen, knock it with the mallet at the back of the head.  A pair make for a more secure fixing than one alone.  Certainly made the shaping of this seat easier.  By the way the travisher is a Bristol Designs one with the handles modified so you don’t catch your knuckles on the work, not a brilliant tool (e.g. I found the tangs were welded onto the blade and the holes in the handle far too big  for them) but, at the price I paid, a bargain.

In the old workshop AKA the garage, I have a Record holdfast which incorporates a screw to tighten the foot against the work.  The original hold fast seems better to me on these counts: the Record is a pain to tighten as the foot slips over the work as you tighten the screw down; the Record needs a cast iron collar set in the bench to work so you would need to buy extra ones if you wanted to reposition the holdfast; original is more elegant; the clamping area is bigger on Joel’s version; I like whacking things with a mallet; the original is quicker to set and reset.