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Saturday, 15 August 2015

First impressions of the Clifton block plane

We received our first delivery of Clifton block planes yesterday, so I thought I'd share some photos and initial impressions.

As you can see it's a very handsome looking thing indeed, with very clean and elegant flowing lines.


The next thing you notice is the mass, at nearly 1kg (just over 2lb) this plane has quite a presence. That said, I'm used to using a narrower 60-1/2 and this is nearer to the proportions of a 9-1/2, so that may be why it's so noticeable to me. It feels wonderfully planted on a big endgrain surface, and if you have larger hands prepare to be enraptured!


The body is vacuum cast bronze, a process where the mould is evacuated of air and the liquid metal is literally sucked in. It's a comparatively expensive way of going about it, but every last detail is captured perfectly with no voids, so they gain a bit back by having nothing to reject when the castings are ring tested.

The bodies are individually machined one at a time (mention gang milling at Clifton and the room goes silent) and carefully hand finished. This is an important point, a Clifton is very much a handcrafted object, you will find minor asymmetries, hand tooling marks and no two are exactly identical, they are made, by one craftsman for another, rather than produced.


The blade is beautifully thick and I noticed on the wholesale price list that they are listed as '25 degrees', read into that what you will...! I absolutely love the way they have incorporated the adjuster at the back and the fact that they have included the bumps in the sides of the bed to align the blade and provide a fulcrum for the adjustment - this is exactly the way Thomas Norris intended this adjustment system to be used.


Some people will squeak and hurrumph about the price being nearly the same as a No.4 smoother, viewed another way you might draw the conclusion that the bench planes are 'still remarkably cheap at the moment'. In either case, I'm glad that Clifton are sticking to their guns, concentrating on making handmade tools beautifully, and letting everyone else respond to them.

Great job Clifton, this one really hits the mark!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Excellent Woodworking Videos

Ever have one of those moments where you go, "oh yeah, of course...obvious when you think about it!"

Here's an excerpt from the new video series on Richard Maguire​'s site The English Woodworker​.

This is probably the best 'ordinary fundamentals of the craft' instructional video series I have watched, no egotism, no nonsense, just proper knowledgeable instruction at a sensible pace. If your grandad had done an apprenticeship, this is very close to what he would have learned and, video technology aside, how he would have learned it.

A lot of people are squeamish about paying for video tuition, especially when there is so much free content available. But when you put an hourly rate on your time, he only needs to save you a couple or three hours maximum before it has paid for itself. If you honestly believe it would be more efficient to spend that time trawling through hours of badly shot footage for the odd snippet of insight, or perhaps struggling in the workshop trying to figure it out for yourself, be my guest.

Richard is classically trained and makes his day-to-day living building furniture with hand tools. He has a beautiful working rhythm and is on hand to answer your questions.

Forget 'tricks of the trade', this IS the trade.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The best screwdriver in the world...

1 part Chase English Potato Vodka
4 parts freshly squeezed and sieved orange juice
1 handful of frozen grapes

To make the worlds best vodka screwdriver you have to start with the worlds best vodka. Chase single estate English potato vodka is made from organic Lady Claire and Lady Rosetta potatoes, distilled five times, chill filtered and hand bottled. Its smooth, complex, creamy flavours are unlike any vodka you have ever tasted before, and it's gluten free. I get mine here

Buy fresh oranges, roll them on the counter to release the juice, squeeze them, then pass the fresh juice through a sieve to remove the pips, pods and pith.

Serve in a highball glass with frozen grapes instead of ice, they will chill your drink just as effectively but won't dilute it in the process, so the last sip will be just as perfect as the first.

If you were looking for the worlds best screwdrivers, try here:

Workshop Heaven Screwdrivers

Workshop Heaven Screwdrivers