Friday, 25 November 2016

Not many blog entries this year

I've just realised I haven't made many blog entries this year. I have been very busy but still woodworking.
I have made two pairs of large driveway gates for instance  - 4 in total. These took quite a while to complete as I had to fit woodworking in with my life.
The frame work is iroko and the boards are western red cedar.
I finished them with a new product to me Sansin SDF in the UK obtainable from Silva Timber

I bought a gallon of Roasted Almond. Not cheap at £103 for a gallon but more than enough to coat both sides of 4 gates with two coats. I still have plenty left over too.

The intention is to motorise the gates and I have made them strong enough for the motors.

I am currently working on replacing a rotted window cill on our Edwardian house. I have made the cill to the same shape as the original but just need a dry day to fit it.

Another important job to be done before Christmas is an extension to our dining table. We have many guests coming this year. I have repurposed the top from an old pine table and put walnut breadboard ends on it with a edge profile to match the existing dining table. The base is made from oak and is in the same style as the original table base. All this is being stained with General Finishes Antique Cherry Water Base Wood Stain Code GF10006. This is fairly close to the existing table colour. The oak base and pine top are the only items to be stained as the black walnut is to be left natural.

Pictures to follow.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Paul Sellers Essential WoodWorking Hand Tools - A review - Part 1 the book

This book by the fantastic English woodworker Paul Sellers or as he calls himself "an amateur woodworker" has been anticipated for a while. There is also an optional 3 disc DVD called "Using & Sharpening Essential Woodworking Hand Tools". I bought both. For those who are unaware Paul started training as a woodworker in 1965. He has also taught many thousands of people through courses both in the USA and the UK. So he has more than 50 years of experience and has reached even more people with instructional videos of woodworking techniques and now broadcasting via the internet. A lot of his videos are freely available on his Youtube channel. Check them out if you are interested.

Sharpening Equipment

The book itself is a hardback tome of 480 pages. The opening chapters cover sharpening equipment, stones, files for sharpening saw teeth, sawsetting the teeth and burnishing for card scrapers. Emphasis is made on keeping the tools as sharp as you can. When they start to become blunted go back to the sharpening station and touch them up ready to go with the minimum of downtime.

Layout Tools

The second group of chapters cover tools for laying out projects. Squares and measuring tapes are covered. The use of a marking knife is emphasized. Paul favours the use of a double bevel knife whereas I myself prefer a single bevel but with a diamond point. Paul likes to use a marking gauge with a point whereas I like the Veritas wheel gauge. But he points out the good and bad points of either. There is also a section of sliding bevel gauges. I now know the limitations of mine as pointed out by Paul's concise argument.

Chisels and Gouges

The third group of chapters covers chisels and gouges. He discusses the various types such as firmer, bevel edge, mortise and butt chisels. He concludes that the most useful are bevel edged chisels with firmer and butt coming lease useful. He goes on to discuss sharpening techniques for chisels. Then he moves onto gouges. Who knew that there was a numbering system for gouges? I certainly didn't. He also goes to show how he keeps gouges sharp and in optimum condition.


The fourth group of chapters covers planes. This is a very interesting section of the book and he poses a few questions:

  • Should you have one of every number of bench plane?
  • Do you need a jointer plane for levelling?

His answer was surprising to me. Essentially if you buy your wood pre-milled or use power tools to mill your stock (I do the latter) then the answer is no. Most of Paul's work is done with a #4 smoother including rapid stock removal and jointing. He seems to use mainly old Stanley planes that he's owned since he was knee high to a grass hopper or has refurbished. That sounds like a similar way to how most woodworkers have obtained their planes.
He also covers spokeshaves his own favourite is a Stanley 151 bevel down. He finds that particular plane is good for difficult grain.
Plough Planes
Then he has a section on the plough plane preferring the Record 043/044 models. There is also a discussion of older wooden planes and shows how smooth they are.
Router Planes
There is a chapter on the router plane and this concludes with how to make a "Hags Tooth" or poor mans router plane. Basically knocking a chisel through a block of wood. There is also a video on his Youtube channel showing how to do this.


The next three chapters cover saw sharpening, handsaws, backsaws and the coping saw.
He shows how to use the 3 square file to sharpen the teeth on saws. How to use a sawset and support the saw in a saw vice. There is a section on possible errors you may come across while using a saw, how to identify and correct the issue.
There is an extensive section on the types of saws you may encounter and how to hold a saw. You may have thought that there is only one way but Paul shows you the best way in his opinion.
This section concludes with that much underestimated saw the coping saw.

Abrading Tools

This section of two chapters covers scrapers, rasps and files. The scrapers cover the card scraper and cabinet scraper. There are recommendations on what hand stitched rasps a beginner should just. Not the brand but the lengths and grain (roughness) that is best suited for a new user.
Paul also makes use of engineering (metalwork) files in woodworking as it produces a fine finish after using a rasp.

Boring tools.

Drills and boring tools follow in three chapters dedicated to Brace and Bit, Hand Drill and Square Awl. I have a brad awl for starting holes but never thought to get one of these bird cage awls that can be used to start a hole or bore one right the way through stock. My brace drills are currently up on the wall of the shop collecting dust. I shall have to dig them out.

Striking tools.

Hammers and mallets come next. Paul likes the Thor nylon headed mallet and uses it for chiselling and the other side for tapping joints together. There is also a discussion on the steel hammer that everybody is familiar with.
The last chapter covers large wooden mallets. Particular attention is given on how to construct your own mallet, wood selection, drying the wood if necessary and making a mallet to last a lifetime. This is a good exercise for a youngster or a beginning woodworker.


The last section show how to maintain and care for your hand tools followed by a glossary.

The book is illustrated with excellent colour photographs throughout. There are also clear drawings by Paul. The book is highly detailed and conveys Paul's opinions based on his long experience in all things wood. As they are his opinion others might not agree with some of the text but it is very well worthwhile considering. The book is very definitely an excellent resource that is worthwhile reading. It is useful for beginners through to long in the tooth woodworker and is a great addition to any woodworking library. This is not a cheap book but is available from various sellers worldwide.
Go to for a link to where to buy this.

Currently on sale in UK via Amazon at £38 GBP including shipping.
in the US it is on sale at Highland Woodworking at $55 US + shipping

Friday, 17 June 2016

Bosch GKT 55 GCE Track Saw - Review

In the past you had to rely upon expensive panel saws, CNC equipment or table saws to make straight splinter free cuts. When Festool created their first track saw more than a decade ago they set the benchmark. You no longer have to struggle with 8 x 4 sheets of material getting them onto the table saw. I've been looking for a track saw for a while to prevent injuring my back and the toss up was indeed the Festool range, the Dewalt, the Makita or the Bosch. It had to be in the professional spec as I want it to last.

I had a look at the first three and the Festool TS55 was very impressive. However when I compared it to the Bosch GKT 55 GCE I felt the Bosch had the edge on the original.

So I took the plunge, so to speak, and raided the piggy bank to buy the Bosch.

What's In The Box?

The particular deal I went for was for the saw, an L-Boxx storage case, two plate tracks, joining plate, track clamps and plate carrying case.
The delivery came in two packages, a large cardboard box containing the Saw and accessories, the other a long thin package containing the tracks in their carrying case.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Bronze age saws

Well before Lie Nielsen, Bad Axe Tools Works, Disston saws, any of the Sheffield saw makers and indeed long before iron had been discovered any idea how our ancestors cut wood? They used Bronze.
I was recently in Crete and visited a museum in Heraklion and stumbled across this exhibit containing bronze age wood working tools.
The saws I guess were around 5 to 6 feet in length and looked around 1/4" thick. The ends had holes bored probably for wooden handles and the saws were intended for 2 man use. The tooth profile appeared to be cross cut without any fleam. Indeed the label with the exhibit also said it was a crosscut saw.
How the profile was cut was anybodies guess as iron hadn't been discovered at that stage.

There were a number of saws all in remarkable condition considering their age which was from around 1700BC - around 3700 years old.

I wonder how many Disston saws will be around in another 3600 years time.

3 bronze saws

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Essential advice for your visit to the timber yard

Here are a few tips if you find yourself at the timber yard or lumber yard choosing your wood

  1. It's difficult to see the grain on sawn timber so take a block plane or scrub plane to check the true colour before buying. Good yards will let you plane a small section.
  2. Always try to hand pick your own timber. Try not to leave it to the yard staff.
  3. Take a moisture meter. When buying hardwoods always use a moisture meter to work out the moisture content of boards. Moisture of kiln dried boards for furniture making should be about 8% to 10%.
  4. Examine the boards for knots, shakes, splitting and other defects. A cut list can help you to work around these if necessary. Try negotiating a discount for substantially disfigured boards though.
  5. If using a car make sure your roof rack is strong enough. Remember most saloon cars are only rated for 100KG maximum on a roof rack. Also check you have enough ropes or straps to tie the boards on.
  6. Check the wood has been stored well at the yard. Sometimes poor stacking, insufficient cover and bad handling can cause all sorts of problems.
  7. A badly bowed board might not be a problem if the pieces you want from it are very short. If you need longer sections discard the board.
  8. Always check the full thickness of sawn boards. A 1" thick board should always measure at least this throughout its length.
  9. Examine species that are often cut from small trees such as American cherry or walnut, to make sure that not too much unusable sap wood is included.
  10. Don't go to the yard on a wet day unless you have covered transport. By the time you arrive back at your shop everything will require drying out again.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Filters changed - Record Power AC400

The Record Power AC400 air cleaner needed a new set of filters having not been replaced since being purchased back in Sept 2012 (nearly 4 years ago!). To be fair I did actually vacuum the external filters from time to time. I bought the replacements from Yandle and Sons:-

  • Record Power Replacement Outer Paper Filter for AC400 Air Cleaner (RPOSAC400-27) £9.99
  • Record Power Replacement Inner Filter for AC400 Air Cleaner (RPOSAC400-26) £15.59

Shipping had to be added on.

The method of replacement was simple. Two spring clips hold the external filter in place. The internal filter bag assembly is a snug fit within the casing. I took them out and vacuumed inside. There was a little dust that had got through.

I replaced the internal filter and sealed around the perimeter with duct tape. Then I inserted the external filter and sealed the perimeter of that with duct tape too.

The filter was then hung back into position by its chains and all was OK. The fresh air flow was increased and clean air was then back in the shop. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Non shop made storage

I need to make furniture and musical instruments rather than shop furniture. Having said that I will be making a Roubo workbench soon.

In the August of 2015 I bought a storage cube to store all my safety equipment. The main item was the Trend AirShield Pro which was ironically collecting dust in the shop. I mounted it straight to the wall and built a raised platform internally for the AirShield. I also put a few long screws into existing holes in the cabinet and hung ear defenders, close up magnifier and other items. I store both Veritas MKII honing guides and all their attachments in there too. The charging cable for the Airshield runs through one of the holes in the cabinet.

Then there are the edge guides for the routers. Have you noticed that once you have replaced a router back into its blow moulded case there is difficulty inserting the edge guide? I think the manufacturers build in an internal shrinking mechanism once you have initially opened the case. Nothing ever goes back in - we don't have Festool Systainers in this shop! So the edge guides are also in the storage cube.
Then there are the face shields for turning.

So this storage cabinet has become primarily my safety gear cabinet.

I was that impressed with the cabinet that I bought another this time with an integral shelf.
Into this cabinet I have put all my moulding planes/hollows/rounds. That gets them out of the cardboard box which I had stored on the ground under the assembly table.

Both cabinets are now mounted onto the French cleat I had mounted on the wall recently. I also hung the table saw blade storage box and made a temporary hanging place for my saws.
In time I will replace this with a custom saw till.

So I have gone full circle. I initially said I need to make furniture and musical instruments. Instead I am making shop furniture - just what I don't want to do (!) - to help store my tools.
The storage cubes are from CS Storage Limited and are model "Armour Cube Locker 450H 450W 450D "

A wall full of tools

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Hardwood is not cheap these days

I have been working out how much timber for my proposed Roubo split top workbench is going to cost. Roughly at the moment the prices including taxes but not shipping are

  • Beech £710.81 Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf
  • Steamed beech £750.53 Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf
  • Maple £1,231.11 Janka Hardness: 1,450 lbf (hard maple) 850 lbf (soft maple)
  • European oak £1,940.77 Janka Hardness: 1,120 lbf
  • White oak £1,561.65 Janka Hardness: 1,350 lbf
  • Iroko £1,031.76 Janka Hardness: 1,260 lbf
  • Douglas fir £648.03     Janka Hardness: 620 lbf
Now I know that oak is no good for iron/steel unless I want iron oxide so have ruled them out.
The maple will be soft maple still with a reasonable Janka of 850 but a little too soft for a bench.
Douglas fir is a softwood and although it is dimensionally very stable I think a little too soft for a bench.
Iroko is hardwearing on tooling but will probably work well as a bench. The jury is out on that one.

This leaves the two types of beech. Beech has been used for centuries in Europe in bench making. The steaming in the beech unifies its colour to a pink. I'm not too bothered about the colour as this is a bench but it would be nice to have it all one colour as I'm spending a lot of cash on it. So steamed beech it will be.


The plans are the Woodwhisperer Guild plans by Marc Spagnuolo designed in conjunction with Benchcrafted's own design.

Benchcrafted hardware

The cost of Benchcrafted hardware for my needs is £737.10 so the total cost of the bench (without shipping on any item) is £1,487.63

Do I Don't I?

I have to ask myself do I really need it? Yes of course I do but not for a few months.
My commercial Sjobergs is ok(ish) for now but moves about when I plane on it.

Sunday, 31 January 2016


I went into the shop this morning to start a day of work. I opened my plane cabinet and noticed a shoulder plane with rust on it. When I looked closer it was covered in rust despite me always oiling them (or thinking I do!) when I put them away. Then looking at all the other planes they too had a thin layer of rust albeit a little less severe on them. So out came the sandpaper, WD40 and Boeshield T9. Two hours later they were back to normal.

It appears that over the last few days humidity and external temperatures had deviated quite a lot in England. I remember going into the shop at the start of the week, opening the plane cabinet and seeing my breath inside. The shop heating was on but wasn't at full temperature. I thought nothing of it at the time and all tools were fine. The plane cabinet is fairly airtight but me opening the cabinet let in the moist air from the shop and the resulting formation of rust over the next couple of days ate at the tools while I was out of the shop.

I have some silica gel packets that are in all closed compartments/drawers in the shop but they needed recharging (been in a year or so). I put them in the oven for 30 minutes at about 100C (212F) and have put a bunch back into the cabinet.

Ironically of all the tools like chisels, saws etc. that I have in a open tool rack exposed to the air of the shop, none of them have rusted at all! So much for a "protective" tool cabinet!

So just to underline - Please DO oil any steel tools or cast iron before putting them away.

A nice pair... of saws

I was recently browsing a vintage tools website and came across these two beauties. I couldn't resist them so bought them. They were the not unreasonable £45 + shipping each.

CT Skelton small saw

The first is made in Sheffield by the CT Skelton company. It's a short panel saw 18" long with UK 8TPI. I'm not sure of the date but know they made saws from 1879 to 1953. My money is on the more recent date.

A slight amount of damage to the top horn of the beech handle

Monday, 25 January 2016

Veritas Bar Gauge Heads - Review

This is a simple but well made idea. In the past I have strapped a couple of lengths of thin scrap together to make what is essentially a variable length comparator stick. I would normally use a little blue tape to hold the two sticks together. This is cheap and works really well but Veritas came up with this simple idea a few years ago.
Each head is a circular billet of aluminium with a rectangular hole machined in the side. This part has been black anodised. There is a turned brass knob in the top of one of the clamps. Both heads are secured to their respective timbers with brass machine screws.

Like most items from Lee Valley Veritas the item is very well engineered and finished. They simply clamp two pieces of wood 3/4" wide x 1/4" thick against each other. The below photos are from pictures available on the internet (my camera is away for repair!)

In practice you make two 1/4" thick x 3/4" wide sections of wood whatever length you want. Cut a point on one end of each piece. Then slide the pieces into two of the clamp heads and tighten both screws. Each point should face away from each other. Then to use you simply loosen the screws and slide the wooden lengths so they fit inside what you are measuring. It is great for comparing across corners of a drawer, casework, cabinetry etc to square for squareness.

Also you drill an 1/8" diameter hole about 1" from the stub end of one and the pointed end of another. In the holes you simply screw some brass threaded pins (supplied) and you can cover all internal dimensions from about 1/2" to just slightly less than the length of the gauge.
So the gauge essentially has a capacity from 1/2" to the extended length of the bar. Very impressive and a very simple, effective solution.

View showing clamp heads

Using the threaded pins

What is in the box

I made mine from a few pieces of scrap beech and oak I had lying around in the shop. I made two sizes, 1 pair at 19" long. 1 pair at 30" long. This covers most of the case work I do. If I need longer, shorter or intermediate sizes it is really easy to rip another couple of lengths. I finished them with a little left over oil based finish I also had lying around the shop.

In the UK the clamp heads are available from Axminster and cost £8.46 + shipping.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

You can never have enough horizontal surfaces - A Roubo workbench

Normally woodworkers repeat the old maxim "You can never have enough clamps" well I do have enough. However one thing that I have been adding over the years is horizontal surfaces. I have
  • a snazzy low assembly table
  • a couple of workmates
  • a re-purposed mitre saw table
  • a router table
  • a table saw with a hardboard protective cover
  • a commercial workbench
all of which can be pressed into service when needed.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Veritas MKII Narrow Blade Honing Guide review

Having been an owner and user of the standard Veritas MKII (Mark 2) honing guide for a number of years I was aware of a few of its shortcomings.

  • Not being able to hold any of my mortise chisels
  • Poor holding of narrow blade chisels.

With the addition of the Narrow Blade attachment these limitations are no longer an issue.
I decided to buy a complete 3 piece assembly rather than the head only as I often hone wide plane blades and wanted to dedicate my original MKII to the task.

I ordered my new honing guide from Axminster in the UK and a day later received the original guide. This is not what I ordered and a quick phone call to the good people at Axminster brought the narrow blade guide in the next days post. The barcode number at the end is -10 for the narrow blade and -01 for the regular guide. An easy mistake for a supplier to make.