Friday, 27 February 2009

New Tool

Mmmm . . . a brand new, pristine, unused, virgin chainsaw - brand new today !

I had gone to look at the Stihl range but on talking with the salesman I discovered that Husqvarna give you a higher power/weight ratio for your money.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Pancake Day in Medway

Yesterday we went to my niece Jessica's 18th birthday at Chatham in Kent and had pancakes with lemon and sugar because it was Shrove Tuesday. Apparently it's the second time it's happened in her life.

This is a gnarled old fallen Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa) outside Rochester Cathedral.

Mad Old Lathes 2

Peter Follansbee kindly sent this photograph of 17th C balusters

turned on a similar lathe called a “swash” lathe, the result is “swash” work. In the dictionary it gives this definition of a swash plate - "an inclined disk revolving on an axle and giving reciprocating motion to a part in contact with it."

I can't get over how skilled and patient these guys must have been to get any kind of result (can the operator actually see what's happening at the cutting edge ?) and it's good to see an example of something actually turned on one.

Here's a link to Besson's book at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries which contains many other engravings of weird and wonderful contraptions.

Peter also said "Let me know when you get one up & running, I’d love to see it in action." Don't hold your breath . . .


Friday, 20 February 2009

Camel Stool ?

Approx 1 foot high at centre of 2'6" wide seat

An interesting item. The owner, who brought it for restoration, didn't know much about it and thought it may have been a Camel stool (sitting on it to ride a camel). It has an oriental air to my eye.

The construction is interesting - the two pierced ovals and the seat are all carved from one piece of timber and the base is screwed on from underneath. Wood - couldn't tell but something soft and light.

It does look comfortable but I didn't dare sit on it as one of the ovals has bad cracks and I thought I might split it in half. Shame it's suffered such neglect and been kept in a damp garage. I'M not going to do the restoration - took it to Vanessa's brother Nigel who's an expert antiques restorer. He looked at it like it was a big lump of firewood !

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Mad Old Lathes

I'm putting up these pictures in response to a comment on Follansbee's blog about ambivalence in illustrations. They're from one of the Holtzappfel books on turning and history of the lathe. I don't actually own a copy and these are from bad photocopies.

I love staring at these and trying to work out what's going on - perhaps someone can tell me?

This guy looks like he's between a rock and a hard place.

Can't believe I managed to crop off the bow at the top

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Letter cutting

To add a new string to my bow I went up to Walsham-le-Willows in Suffolk yesterday and had a whirlwind introduction to the fundamentals of letter cutting with Mary Anstee-Parry.

And my what a lot of fundamentals and conventions there are !

Mary wouldn't let me use my tracings of computer generated words. I had to draw the letters on the wood freehand and then practice the sequence of cuts to incise them. The wood is French Oak which Mary said wasn't very good - too fast grown - so can't wait to try some good stuff.

To my mind the 'S' looks wrong, the 'N' too wide with its upright stems too thick and raggedness in the 'S' but not bad for a first effort. The reason I used my name was so that I could fix it to my shed or something rather than just write any old word which would then kick around uselessly for ages.

A beautiful Gothic panel carved by Mary from English Oak (shame about the photo quality)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Plane fire

After my recent clear out I was left with three old beech plane bodies - a rebate, an "old woman's tooth" type router and a coffin shaped smoother. They were all minus their irons, cracked and falling apart. I didn't want them and neither did anyone else so rather than take them to the dump I thought we'd get a bit of warmth out of them on last nights fire.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Cemetery Ash

Been to Nunhead Cemetery for a load of lovely straight grained, quick grown ash. This was thanks to Tim Stevenson who runs the volunteers who try to keep this 52 acre urban oasis from becoming completely wild and overgrown. He also sets up his pole lathe amongst the graves and turns the parts for chairs. Seen above standing in front of the massively burred trunk of a London Plane.

A couple of mausoleums

Amazing - get lovely ash, grown on the bodies of dead people and only this far from St Paul's !

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

London Calling


A few pictures of the urban landscape as seen from the 25th floor of Guy's Hospital. The saga of the root-canal treatment to my bridgework goes on . . . still had no work done after 3 visits.

The City and the "Lipstick"

The Tower of London
It seems to be almost totally subsumed by the environment. Building work goes on apace - everywhere there are cranes. We heard a little boy on the bus say to his mum "When will the world be finished ?" - I know what he meant !

Tower Bridge

The Lipstick from Liverpool Street Station

I wonder if the Lipstick will be around in a thousand years ?

Sunday, 8 February 2009


Raphael Salaman in his Dictionary of Woodworking tools p.460 tells us that

“For such a common and versatile tool, the Spokeshave has a curiously obscure history. The word occurs in a wheelwright’s inventory of 1454 (J.A.Clark in Tools, Trades, Vol.2, 1984) and W.L.Goodman has shown that some sixteenth century coopers’ apprentices had spokeshaves (Industrial Archaeology, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1972). But there is no certainty over what these tools actually looked like. Neither Moxon (London, 1677) nor Diderot (Paris, 1763) illustrates the sort of tool with which we are familiar nor even mentions the word. The earliest representation so far known to us is the wooden Spokeshave included with cooper’s tools in Smith’s Key (Sheffield, 1816). This is similar to the tool in use today. The metal so-called ‘spokeshaves’ (they are really little planes with side handles, which function and feel quite differently from the wooden tool with its horizontal cutter) were introduced about 1860 . . . the earliest known to us appears in Leonard Bailey’s patent of 13th July 1858 . . .”

Top left, 2 wooden spokeshaves, one with nuts fitted to the tangs for adjustment (both have brass wear plates set into the sole), below a Record A63 with blade convex from back to front. Top right a Record A151 (“the crab” as Vanessa calls it) and the type most commonly seen and used today, below is a Stanley 53 with a hinged sole and single adjustment screw (I first heard about this in one of James Krenov’s books and found this one in a boot-fair for a few pence - it’s my favourite), at the bottom is a dinky little set of miniature brass spokeshaves which I just acquired. L-R flat sole, sole convex from back to front, sole convex from side to side.

Unfortunately the grind on the blades is very coarse and needed a lot of lapping and honing on the back of the blades to get them really sharp.

Good for finishing spoons as they just nestle in your hand.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Saffron Walden

William Palmer Robins, 'The Old Sun Inn, Saffron Walden', watercolour, 1941.

The Old Sun Inn at Saffron Walden in North East Essex, established in the fourteenth century, is one of the most illustrious inns in England. The diarist Samuel Pepys and the writer John Evelyn both recorded visits, and Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed there during the Civil War. It is especially renowned for the ornate plasterwork, or 'pargetting', on its facade, depicting the legendary figures of Tom Hickathrift and the Wisbech Giant. Although the Sun is no longer an inn, the building survives today, housing an antique shop.

It was to this wonderful old building that we repaired after a poke about amongst the rusty old iron on offer from Steve, the toolseller, in the market place (I think this is where a lot of my collection came from!).

Managed to spot a couple of interesting books which I haven't seen before.
The first was . . .

A 1973 reprint by the University of Toronto Press, originally published in 1940 ISBN 0-8020-6081-1
All kinds of techniques used by the early settlers are described and throughout there are quotations from contemporary journals and anecdotes about various personalities.

Then Good Neighbours - the new (in 1942) book by Walter Rose author of The Village Carpenter. Of course I have the Village Carpenter it's a lovely book and I've read it many times. I knew that he had written another - and there it was for only £3.50. I love that moment when you're browsing and suddenly something leaps out of the shelves saying "Here I am !"

And finally a 1st ed. of this seminal work . . .

I already have a copy but it was in such good condition for a 60 year old book - doesn't even look like it's ever been opened. So now I've got a spare - any offers ?

PS. Some of the antiques on offer at The Sun Inn look like they could have been around since it was built or at least from Cromwell's time !