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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Taste the Oak!

Oh My God! If you haven't tried this stuff you need to - it is absolutely delicious! Our postman is quite into his beers and we occasionally swap tasting notes and bring each other a bottle or two to try if we find something a bit special or unusual. I read a fascinating article about the guy who set up Innis and Gunn in an in flight magazine on the way to a woodworking exhibition in Hannover last month so I have been keen to try his brew ever since.

I've also recently been experimenting by barbecuing chicken long and slow on the gas grill with the lid closed and a big pile of oak shavings smoking away on the other side. Incidentally barbecue is a noun - not a verb, you don't barbecue food, you gently smoke it until it becomes 'barbecue'! (an interesting factoid to drop into the conversation next time your neighbour offers you an incinerated sausage with a raw middle). The best result so far has been to marinade the chicken in 1 part Japanese Mirin and 1 part Worcester sauce with a pinch of salt and a generous twist of white pepper.

The result is golden and succulent and utterly delicious with strong vanilla and toffee flavours. You can taste exactly the same oak imparted flavours in Innis and Gunn's original oak aged beer.

The concept originated when they were beer seasoning casks for distillers, the beer itself was supposed to be thrown away but the brewery workers were quietly siphoning it off for themselves. The boss's lad was working on the shop floor at the time (he had no intention of getting into brewing himself) but was so impressed that he ended up taking over the firm, abandoning everything else they were doing and focussing the entire business on what had previously been a waste product!

Net result - one of Scotland's most successful export beers ever! And I can see why. Hmmmm, maybe the postie can wait until I've been shopping again....!!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Cambering Plane Irons

A slight curvature on the cutting edge of a plane iron eliminates track marks produced by the corners of the iron on the workpiece. The most succinct description I have encountered of how a cambered iron works is as follows:

"Imagine a tub of ice cream and all you have to level it with is an ice cream scoop. First passes leaves scoop shaped hollows (width depends on how deep you go). Second pass you remove the top of ridges between the hollows - digging less deep. Third pass ditto." (Jacob Butler) posted on UKWorkshop. May 12th 2011

This is my method of cambering a plane iron, it is quick and easy to do and repeatable with quite a high degree of precision. It is informed by David Charlesworth's technique described in DVD#1 Hand Tool Techniques Part 1 and my own belief in honing guides with a wheeltrack wider than the tool being sharpened (making the guide master of the tool rather than the other way around).

Begin by wetting the lapping film with a few drops of HoneRite No.1, place a rigid steel rule (about 1mm thick) under one wheel of the guide as shown above and hone through 40 30 and 5 micron grades to produce a triangular polished facet on the opposite corner of the primary bevel.

Do the same again with the rule on the other side, then repeat the process using a thin flexible rule to create a shallower polished facet on either side. Finally hone the centre of the iron flat, just as you would for a square edge. This step is important as it broadens the shaving that the plane will take at shallow depths of cut. If you like you can also do alternate strokes with one wheel on the glass and one on the film to help blend the facets into each other. The result should be a plane iron with a smiley face. (please excuse the loss of picture quality, I was racing against the setting sun)

Take the iron out of the guide, turn it over, slip the thin rule under the safe end, and starting with the cutting edge off the sheet, draw the non-bevelled face of the iron onto the 30 micron film to remove the burr. Polish to a shine on the 5 micron again with the other end supported by the thin rule. (this bit is pure Charlesworth and saves a whole bunch of time and effort).

OK the light has really had it now, but this is what you are aiming for - a nice broad shaving that feathers out to nothing on either side:

In this case I'm doing quite a big camber for a jack plane iron, for a smoother the thin rule would be sufficient for the ends and maybe a sheet of good quality paper for the second set of facets. For block planes and bevel-ups you need more camber because the low bedding angle will reduce its effect. The Richard Kell No.2 honing guide I am using here can camber blades with up to 50 degree primary bevels using this method. It can also handle narrow or short bladed and tapered tools that many other guides struggle with.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

First photos of the new Quangsheng No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane

The first shipment of the new Quangsheng Low Angle Jack Planes arrived this afternoon. I'm still unpacking the pallets but curiosity got the better of me so I stopped to have a play. Like all blokes the first thing I did was have a beaker under the bonnet - or in this case brushed stainless steel lever cap.

The lever cap has a countersunk keyhole so you can wind off anything up to three full rotations on the top knob, turn the whole plane upside down and shake it without any of the gubbins falling out - nice touch guys!

Lifting the cutting iron out we see the double threaded Norris type adjuster, This has a coarse thread running through the big dowel pin that seats into the casting and a finer thread through the small dowel that engages the cutting iron. The overall effect one minus the other, so you get roughly a 2:1 mechanical advantage and a fine, silky smooth adjustment. The one thing I'm not overly keen on about the Norris is that it combines lateral and projection adjustment in one, but as Norris adjusters go this is certainly a well engineered example.

Enough engineering, let's plane some wood!!! First up, a small piece of rippled sycamore yielded gossamer shavings with the 25 degree iron. I tried cutting with the left and right sides of the iron as well as the centre and couldn't make the blade shift position at all.

Time for something a little more exotic - this is a piece of Corrugatta or Rib Fruited Mallee, (RFM for short mate!) that I hit up with the 50 degree iron. If I had sharpened it first I dare say I could probably have got more continuous shavings, but in a sudden fit of pandering to the 'yebbut how does it work 'out of the box?' crowd' I was still able to take the top of this piece from bandsawn to this, with only the factory ground edge on the iron.

Since versatility is the whole point of low angle jack planes we are bundling a free 38 and 50 degree iron in with each plane as well as the standard 25 degree one that comes with it. After all, a Swiss army knife with only one blade is just another penknife!

Overall impression: This one's mine! Yours is here.

If you want a closer look at any of the pictures go ahead and give them a click (click a second time to zoom right in).

Oh, nearly forgot the price. £129.50 including VAT (and delivery if you are in UK, Eire, France, Germany or Benelux)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Win a 1 week course at the Peter Sefton Furniture School!

Peter Sefton runs a modern, fully independent Furniture School in the beautiful Worcestershire countryside. He describes himself as a facilitator, keen to ensure that students are shown the full range of methods, combining quality of design and productive making.

The habitual selection of techniques that optimise safety, time, money and materials, along with the necessary skills and confidence to execute them correctly are the hallmarks of Peter’s graduates. There may be several ‘right ways’ of performing a task, but their training will help them to intuitively gravitate towards the one that suits them best without compromising results, whether they are making for pleasure or profit.

Highly qualified in both handwork and machining, Peter demonstrates for Felder and has taught me a thing or two about hand tool techniques. He is a natural teacher, very approachable and richly experienced.

The school itself is immaculate with plenty of natural light and a vibrant positive atmosphere. There are separate well equipped workshops for bench work and machining and bright comfortable classrooms for theory work and a student kitchen.

We are offering customers the opportunity to win a 5 day course with Peter, just follow the link on the homepage of our website and pop your details down.

Entry for the competition is free but not automatic so you do need to put your name down in order to be entered (even if you are already on our mailing list).

Email addresses will be used by Peter Sefton Furniture School and Workshop Heaven for marketing purposes, they will not be shared, sold or divulged to any other parties.

The winner will be drawn at the Peter Sefton Furniture School open day on 9th July 2011. Feel free to come along, we will be there demonstrating some sharpening and drilling techniques, along with Chris Eagles who will be demonstrating some turning techniques, and furniture maker Paul Hodgson will be doing a bit of chair making.

Just to give you a taste for Peter's teaching style here's a little bit of video from a lecture on veneering.

Peter Sefton Matching and Taping Veneers from Peter Sefton Furniture School on Vimeo.

Charity Auctions for Clic Sargent

This week we are auctioning a few items for a wonderful charity called Clic Sargent that provides fantastic support for children with cancer and their families.

Limited Edition Clifton Anniversary No.3 Bench Plane.

Lansky 8" natural Arkansas Bench Stone.

Boxed set of Famag 1622 Bormax Forstner Bits.

Cedar boxed set of Smiths Arkansas slipstones and a pair of bench stones for carving tools.

100% of the money raised will go to the Clic Sargent, so please do your bit to help support these amazingly brave children by visiting the auctions and placing a bid.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Four thousand individual strips of veneer, carefully overlapped, systematically sanded through in waves and then polished to create a solid structure that realistically represents the appearance of a natural nautilus shell. The exterior is carved to replicate the effect produced as the natural growth rings are eroded by the sea, the internal chambers are formed with delicate Japanese lace paper.

Nautilus, a limited edition of 2 coffee tables, is the latest piece to be produced by Marc Fish at Robinson House Studio and was awarded Guild Mark number 435 by the Worshipful Company of Furnituremakers on Thursday 19th of May.

To the best of our knowledge this innovative construction technique has never been tried before but has been executed with consummate precision and skill. Our congratulations to Marc and his clients for giving the world yet another achingly beautiful piece of furniture.