Sunday, 8 November 2009

It is not the size that counts, it is how you use it...



One of the biggest problems I have with my little shop of horrors is room to work. In truth, there isn't any, room that is. The shop is actually my office; the third and the smallest of the three bedrooms in our condo. Many visitors have mentioned that they never thought one small room could hold so much stuff. I give each of them credit as not one of them has used the word "junk" when making that statement.

The room has a double-width closet with space going from floor to ceiling. I was able to store most of my old power tools in this space through the use of a rather strange maze of shelving. Some others are stored under our bed and still others are stored at a friend's shop. While I do not want to even look at them, let alone use them, I do not have the heart to give them away. They are old friends, old friends waiting to turn on me, but still old friends.

Front and centre in the shop now are my hand tools, many of those that I have purchased lately lined up along one work counter, the tool cabinet I am building wide open so I can see every tool stored in it, and other assorted pieces spread hither and yon. The reason for the visitors' comments is due to all the other stuff my pride and joys share space with. Along with the tool cabinet, which has a built in bench, is a portable vice bench, one that needs replacing in the very near future, a full multi-stationed computer studio, books, miscellaneous mementos and other assorted sundries. One glance through the door and you quickly realize that building Norm's bonnet topped highboy is out of the question.

I will admit that I haven't picked up a tool and used it in a couple of months. My connection to all things wood lately is buying the odd one that strikes my fancy as they come across my bow, so-to-speak. With time being the illusive commodity it is these days, I haven't even been able to actively pursue any of those tools I definitely want to add to my collection, but instead, have taken to placing orders for them with the one tool dealer I trust, jimbodetools.com. It is a strange way to participate in a hobby, but I guess it is better than nothing.

There is the future to look forward to, though. There will be a day, I hope, that we will be moving out of the city, the computers will be off more than they are on, and my time will be spent using all these beautiful tools I have collected. The reality is, though, I have no intention of building Norm's highboy, but instead, build only what can comfortably fit on a small to medium sized bench. The relevance of size has completely disappeared from my head and I am looking forward to spend many an hour doing nothing more than creating complexities in joinery.

With this type of future work in mind, I have started to look for smaller than normal tools. With this in mind, I sent off an email to Jim Bode a few weeks ago asking him to locate a Stanley No. 2 and a No. 3 for me, an order he tells me is half complete at this point. I have also made a few other purchases from him lately, most along these same lines, some of which are displayed in the image below.



While not all the tools I have purchased over the past couple of months a represented here, these are my favourites from this latest group. The Stanley No. 4 in the background was one of the planes I purchased from my father, an inclusion in the shot to give you all a reference for size.

The first of these tools to come to me is the Stanley No. 62 Rule in the front, a present to me from my wife, which I thought was rather touching. Sadly, it is missing its alignment pins, but I will cut a few and pop those in one day.

Next came the coping saw, this set actually working in the reverse of my topic here. I purchased the smaller one two years ago at a Vintage Tool Market they hold once or twice a year close to Hamilton, Ontario. It is, without a doubt, the worst advertised sale in the history of capitalism as I have been watching for an announcement for the next one since leaving the one I attended and haven't seen or heard a thing about it yet. Sad, really, as this neck of the woods holds very few events like this. Back to the saw, the seller had no clue who made it, but because I liked it so much, I purchased it anyway for $35.00. A few months ago discovered a full sized example on the Sindelar Museum's web site. It was in excellent company in their Saw Section, so I called Mr. Sindelar to ask him about it. He asked for an image of the saw, which I sent, but I have yet to hear back from him and doubt I will. I would bet he could spend all his time answering questions from nuts like me, so I can understand his reluctance to set the precedence. Just after that this same saw was on the cover of a Lee Valley catalogue, so again I called asking for information. They replied, at least, although they did not know any of the history regarding their example. Shortly after that, the larger example shown here came up for sale on eBay, but sadly I missed bidding on it. As it didn't sell, I wrote the seller and asked if he could relist it, which he agreed to, and a month later he posted it and I purchased it as it is a perfect match to the smaller one. I think I paid him $10.00 for it, but he didn't know the history of it either, so I am now the proud owner of a pair of matching saws and haven't a clue who should get credit for their beautiful design. What I do know is that they are European, probably from Germany, and if you have any more information about them, I would truly appreciate hearing from you.

Next to arrive was the pair of Plane Floats that I purchased from St. James Bay Tool Co. Bob Howard is the operator of this company and makes these floats himself. He also produces a beautiful line of planes for those who are interested, and has a brick and mortar in Mesa, Arizona.

The blame for my purchase of these floats lies with Rob, over on Blokeblog. He has been very free with his information regarding building a Shooting Board and while reading his offerings on the subject, I became enamored with concept of tackling one for myself. While all of the responsibility for the shooting board build lies with Rob, I have to take the credit or otherwise for deciding at the same time to build a matching plane for it as well. I have the wood and I have the floats. Now all I need is a blade, an adjuster (looking for a long Norris style), some brass and some time. And oh, yes, a plan. While I am on this subject, if anyone has any suggestions regarding handles for these floats, again, I would much appreciate hearing from you.

Next to come up is the Mitre Jack, although not old by any stretch, one that is beautifully made completely from mahogany, but most important to me was that it was small. Overall, it is only 9 1/2 inches long and stands about 4 1/2 inches high. I purchased it through jimbodetools.com, and I wasn't in love with it before purchasing it, and even less after it arrived. The afternoon after its arrival, I did what I always do to a tool purchase, and stripped it down, cleaned it and laid on a coat of wax. After buffing it up a bit, the thing came alive in my hand, so over the next few days I ended up applying 9 coats of wax. With each coat it blew me away that much more and now, fully waxed, it sits in the spot of glory in the shop so I can see it every time I turn around. On one hand I'm thrilled it turned out to be the bride, instead of the bridesmaid, but on the other, it looks so wonderful now, I may not use it, but I'll put together a pair of waste jaws and give it a go before making up my mind.

The final purchase was last weekend and is a result of an email to me from Lee Valley. This email was their announcement for two of their latest products; a miniature shoulder plane (#05P8001) and a smaller than normal marking gauge that they are calling a Pocket Marking Gauge (#15N0201). If you look on one of the top surfaces of the mitre jack, you will find this little plane while the marking gauge stands before it.

Upon receiving the plane, I disassembled it and swiped the blade across my strop a few times to see what it was going to need. Like all things Veritas, though, it was flat, relatively sharp, and ready to use. I reassembled it and took a few strokes with it along a short bit of walnut and found it more than usable, it offering up some very nice, fine shavings. There is an issue at the start and end of the board, especially because of its length, but that, I think, can be overcome with some experience with it. It is a bit of a buzz that, at 2 1/2 inches long with a 1/4 inch cut, it looks and works exactly like its larger brother, right down to a scaled down version, threads and all, of their Norris style blade adjuster. This adjuster is so fine in its adjustment, I thought it was broken when I adjusted the blade for the first time. It is, despite its size, a very well made tool.

That said, there are a couple of issues with it, the main one being that it appears to be, so far, a stand-alone product. By "stand-alone" I mean that Lee Valley has not even so much as hinted that this offering will be part of a planned "family" of miniature planes, and I don't like that idea one bit. Maybe it is from being raised poor and having my choice of many styles and sizes of water glasses from my mother's cupboard, only because no two glasses matched, but I really have a thing for matched items, especially tools, and I do not think I stand alone with that attitude. I believe it should be part of a set and will be extremely disappointed if it doesn't end up that way. This should be just the first in a series that includes 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16 and 1/2 inch sizes. While I do not think any should be any shorter than this one as this 1/4 has reached its limit in size when it comes to using it, but I do think that as they grow in width, they could grow in length by 1/2 inch increments.

The other issue I have with it is a flaw I also consider to be very large, and very serious. I comes in a storage case that is not too shabby, although I am not big on these things and usually throw them away (some collector, eh?). The case does have one thing that the tool doesn't, it has "Veritas" stamped in the bottom corner of its lid lining. When I noticed the lack of this mark on the tool, I took it apart again and discovered that there are absolutely no makers marks on the tool anywhere. For a tool manufactured as well as this little guy is, that is, or at least should be, downright illegal.



Peace,

Mitchell