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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sticker Shock !

I recently read a post on a forum about the gold stickers on Ashley Iles chisels. The poster said that he thought them unnecessary and that if anything they cheapened the look of the chisels.

I'm not overly fond of them either and there didn't seem to be any dissenting voices from people who particularly liked them, so I thought I'd experiment by removing them from the chisels that we send out for a while and see what the reaction was. - Nothing, no complaints, grumbles or comments whatsoever.

I mentioned this little test whilst on the phone with Barry at the Ashley Iles factory the other day and he said:

"Good! I've never liked those blooming stickers."

So, henceforth the Ashley Iles Cabinetmaker's chisels, Butt chisels and Dovetail chisels made for Workshop Heaven will be produced without stickers.

Job done!

Footnote: The Ashley Iles Cabinetmaker's Chisels are also now available with beech handles if you prefer, I haven't had time to take photos but if you want them in beech just drop me an email.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Quangsheng Planes

Today we have made the final payment and received shipping information on an order of planes from Quangsheng Tools in China. We have been looking for an acceptable range of budget handplanes for a couple of years now, and after six months of intense questioning these guys seem to have come up with the right answers.

The planes were originally developed with the help of Woodcraft in the USA, where they are marketed as Wood River planes. Unusually they are cast from steel rather than iron, a very good but expensive way of doing things that I had previously thought to be the preserve of infill planes. I asked for a copy of the specs and it is a low carbon steel (anything under 2% carbon is steel) with a high chromium content so it should have reasonably good corrosion resistance too.

I also asked about their grinding and was told that they anneal the castings before grinding them and was sent this photo showing a nice big solid bed grinder - important as it acts as a heat sink as well as pretensioning the body and holding it absolutely rock steady as it passes under the grinding wheel. A steady flow of coolant again reduces the chance of the body being stressed by the introduction of heat.

For the handles I have opted for Chinese grasstree wood, they also offer rosewood handles which they apparently buy in from England. From an environmental perspective I couldn't justify using a far eastern timber that has been transported here, shaped, sent all the way back to China and then brought all the way back here again, it seems ludicrous. So the stuff that is local to the place of manufacture, and apparently grows like a weed seemed by far the best bet, I have used grasstree handled tools before and although somewhat plain, it is stout and perfectly acceptable.

The one thing that does concern me is the use of T10 (the Chinese equivalent of W1) for the irons, this can vary hugely depending on the heat treatment, specifically the hardness of the water that is quenched in. Soft water does lovely things to tool steel whilst hard water tends to do the opposite. I haven't been able to find any definite information on the hardness of the water where they are made so we shall just have to wait and see. If it comes to the crunch we can always replace the blades or re-do the heat treatment.

The big question now is how fast TNT can get them here. They rather unhelpfully quote 10 days plus, which could mean anything.

*Update* We have upgraded the shipping option so they should be here at the beginning of December, just in time for Free Shipping Fortnight!!!!

Monday, 9 November 2009

West Riding Woodcarvers Association

I was chatting with a customer from Yorkshire recently. He lives just down the road from Richmond, where the HQ and museum of my family regiment is housed in a beautiful old church, I was reminded of taking the train up there as a mustard keen 19 year old for an interview with the Regimental Secretary. Anyway, the conversation turned to carving clubs and he mentioned that he was a member of the West Riding Woodcarvers Association.

The club is currently working on a series of carved panels depicting scenes from the first and second world wars which will eventually be displayed at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Each member takes a pre-sized block of timber and a design and carves it in their own time, the whole is then assembled and displayed. The club have already created similar panels for several local hospices which are donated free of charge and have earned them royal recognition in the form of a Queens Award for Voluntary Service.

As well as providing an enjoyable project for the club members, the panels add warmth and interest to the environment in which they are displayed in a way that a two dimensional image couldn't match. They also serve to draw public attention to both the club and carving in general.

I believe this is a fantastic way for carvers to help their local communities and bring a touch of warmth to people who so desperately need it. Another amazing thing that we can all do at this time of year is fold up a donation, drop it in the tin, and 'wear your poppy with pride'.

By the way - a wee dab of superglue is all it takes to keep the leaf in the correct position and stop you looking like a politician.