Thursday, 29 December 2011

Mother-In-Laws...You Gotta' Love 'Em (don't you?)...

Take every mother-in-law joke you ever heard, the good, the bad and the ugly, and wrap them all up in a 4’ 2” package, throw a piece of ribbon around it and you will have my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law is one tough cookie. She survived loosing her mother at 6-years of age, being orphaned at 10-years of age, loosing all her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins after being transported to Auschwitz at 16-years of age in a cattle car, jumping off of trains getting out of Europe after the war to ensure her future sons wouldn’t become part of the Russian Army at 20-years of age and she survived raising my wife for the rest of her life. God bless her for it and I love her to death because of it, but damn, she can become one angry bull when anyone doesn’t do what she wants.

My father-in-law was the family’s forth generation to enter the painting profession, his family’s business doing everything from fresco ceilings to exterior house painting. In Europe, to become a painter back then meant a five-year apprenticeship learning to do everything from making your own paint to graining. Having lost all but one brother and his sister to the camps, his family home and business destroyed, he didn’t argue when his new wife told him she wanted to leave for places yet decided. When he finally hit Canada, he had a second shock; the profession he held near and dear wasn’t respected here the way it was in Europe, something he still doesn’t understand to this day. Past destroyed and pride wounded, he picked up his brushes and rollers and went to work with the rest of the painters. While he never gained the same stature he had at home, he worked himself up the chain and started to earn a fair living for his family.

By their tenth anniversary of arriving in Canada, the old man was making enough money to allow his wife to start decorating…well…everything.

Now I’m not saying she did it single-handedly, but if you ask any of the old fabric hawkers, they will tell you that there was a worldwide shortage of green velvet material back in the mid-1960’s, and it caused quite a commotion. That was the same year my mother-in-law started decorating her home.

In her livingroom sits a couch that, she proudly likes to tell anyone who will listen, is the first king-sized pullout bed ever made. Now a king-sized mattress is roughly 80” square. You then have to have room for the mechanism and then the arms are added outside of that. So while she is proud as punch of that couch, the reality is, the damned thing is 2” shy of 8’. It has to be the biggest couch I have ever seen. As with all manufactured products built prior to the late 70’s, this manufacturer didn’t skimp on the gauge of the steel, so the damn thing is as heavy as it is long, probably weighing in at 250-pounds, if it weighs an ounce.

Added to the 3 ½-square miles of green velvet fabric that covers this thing is a low-back easy chair, a matching love seat and six diningroom chairs, all, you guessed it, covered in green velvet. But it doesn’t stop there.

When I first came on the scene, the walls were covered with embossed wallpaper that reminded me of the doilies that my grandmother had on all the arms and backs of her chairs. If the design wasn’t bad enough, it was done in some sort of short, green fuzz that, to my mother-in-law’s eyes, looked like green velvet. This, of course, using those same eyes, made this paper a perfect match for the furniture. I’ll tell you, I am lucky I suddenly became comatose during that first visit, because if I hadn’t, I would have run screaming from the place and would have never got to marry my wife, who, I will mention, hates anything made of velvet  - in any colour - with a passion – thank bloody God!

Married to a painter, my mother-in-law wasn’t shy about serving him up a busman’s holiday, insisting that he repaint often. The first time around for the “green” rooms, off they went to order more of the same paper. The old girl was dashed when they told her that the paper was no longer in production. My father-in-law, bless his heart, took it on himself to carefully steam the paper from the walls, cleaned all the glue off the back of each piece, rolled each one up and when the painting was done, re-hung it. He did this, not once for her, but twice. The second time he damaged enough paper that there wasn’t enough to do both rooms and hallway, so the hallway got painted an “almost matching” green. He still says the paper was getting brittle with age, but I think the crafty old bugger tore the stuff on purpose because he was tired of looking at it.

The beloved paper might be gone, but the sea of green velvet still exists. When they moved into their new abode she drove me nuts pushing me to try and arrange that furniture in the in the same arrangement that they had been living with for these last forty-three years. Because the layout of the new wasn’t anywhere near the layout of the old, it was impossible to do exactly, but I got it as close as I could.

Now you would think she would be happy, wouldn’t you. Here she is, 70-years older than she ever expected to be, living in a nice condo high over the city, in reasonably good health and surrounded by her furniture and nick-knacks. Nope.

The other day I noticed that her livingroom drapes were closed all the time so I asked her about it. She told me she couldn’t open them. I thought there was something wrong with the rod, so I went to look and found nothing, the drapes moved, as they should, and as I’m a glutton for punishment, I went back to her and reported this. She told me that she could open and close them herself, just fine thank you very much, but she couldn’t open them because then she would see the drapery rod.

Now this took me off guard, seriously off guard. The rod was new, and was an exact match to the old one in the old place. I know this because I had purchased and hung it myself; taking this upon myself because I felt the 40-odd year old one was yellowed and worn. I then honestly thought she was joking, and even chuckled. Oh, boy. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong thing to do. Her eyes flashed black and this small, frail, four-foot nothing woman suddenly appeared to tower over me.

Seeing that I had royally pissed her off, I tried logic, asking why, after forty-odd years she suddenly didn’t like the look of the rod. I think you can categorize that as mistake number two. I spent the next ten minutes trying to convince her I didn’t think she was crazy as it was obvious, now that I took a second look at it, that this new rod was completely different than the old. It wasn’t. It was the same style and worked exactly the same way, but I had a much better chance of convincing her that it was my mistake than I did convincing her they were the same. I left shortly afterwards defeated.

For the rest of that afternoon I thought about what I could do for the old bird so she would open her drapes again and get some sunshine in their lives. Whatever it was, it had to be something I could make as, if I did that, I knew all would be forgiven.

I did get an idea, but there was a catch. It involved bending some small pieces of wood.

I had steamed a lot of wood when I replaced the bottom of my boat; so bending wood wasn’t new to me. My problem is that I didn’t have a steam box or a place to use it if I did, so just before dinner than night, I tried something else; something I had read about, but never tried.

I filled my wife’s stockpot almost to the top with water, added a little rock salt and set it on the stove to come to a boil. I went into the office and dug out some scraps of oak; 3/8” by 1 5/8” by 12”. When I had trimmed them equal, I threw them into the pot. I then returned to the office to make a mold.

I let the wood cook for about an hour, pulled them both out, and with my wife doing the deed with the clamps; we clamped them both together around the mold.

Once I had devised a mount that would take my mother-in-law’s abuse, here’s what I came up with…

I have them finished with four coats of varnish, ready to install tomorrow. They will mount under the windowsill and will allow the two panels of drapes to be connected in the middle and be “swaged” to each side.

This is how it will mount and work…

I know this isn’t a faithful reproduction of George Washington’s potty-chair to you guys, but to me, it is huge. If there is one thing I hate more than green velvet, it’s “swaged” anything, especially drapes. After these get installed, every time I walk into that room I’ll have to face those droopy drapes and know that I did it, with protest, but I still swaged those damned drapes.

Awe, well. Its Christmas, and these just might bring a smile, and hopefully a little sunshine, onto the old girl’s face.

And with that, I wish all of you nothing but health, happiness and good fortune throughout this coming new year.



Thursday, 15 December 2011

Trying To Be Sharper Than I Appear To Be…

I finally tore apart the Delta Sharpening Centre I bought through Martin J. Donnelly Auctions a few months ago.

To bring you up to speed, these machines were expensive and notorious for being useless for sharpening, which is the reason it had such a short run. It is kind of hard to sell a machine called a “Sharpening Centre” if it is useless for sharpening things.

When the Delta arrived, it was obvious the Post Office had beat it up pretty good.
In reality, though, I could only find one issue that made the machine junk – its horizontal 1200 grit wet wheel; the reason why everyone bought the machine in the first place. Paying close to $300 for a machine and discovering that it isn’t worth a shit when it comes to the job you bought it for can be a very quick turn-off indeed.

The reason behind this problem is something that plagues many of Delta’s machines. To reduce their production costs, Delta under-engineers some of the most critical parts, resulting in a machine that doesn’t work worth a damn. In this particular case, one of their well-paid engineers miscalculated the weight and centrifugal force an 8-inch wet wheel can produce. That mistake lead to them using only a 2¼-inch collar faced to the arbor that drives the horizontal wet wheel. Because of this, that wheel is difficult to balance, and if you do get it balanced, it is impossible to keep it that way.

The Delta machine was designed to fail.
While the imbalanced sharpening wheel made it useless as a sharpening machine, I think the bones for a machine designed for that purpose are all there. It turns at 650 rpm, it has the second vertical wheel station that accepts the usual assortment of grinder additions and its motor and casing are beefy and reliable. As a result, I bought it.

So now that I have it, what am I going to do with it?

Enter the Veritas Mk. II Sharpening System.

This sharpening machine that is sold by Lee Valley makes the most sense to me, but I find its $400 price tag way out of line for my sharpening requirements. It has an 8-inch turntable that turns at 650 rpm, so it and Delta are the same when it comes to the basics. Where the Veritas machine pulls away and leaves the Delta in the dust is its unique turntable and platter system.

The Veritas machine has an 8-inch well cast aluminum turntable that mounts to a 1¾-inch spindle that is belt driven. The turntable has a collar cast into it that registers it on the spindle and it is fixed in place using two machine screws. This is a pretty well engineered mount, especially when compared to the way Delta attached their wheel support. On this machine the arbor is machined with a face on its side with a matching face on the 2¼-inch collar. The collar just slides over the end of the arbor, the wheel lays on top, and a small, brass 5/8-inch nut buried in the centre of a 2-inch plastic cap holds the lot of it down.

In this image you can see the Veritas turntable and how it
compares to the useless collar the Delta uses.

The Delta only has the 1200 grit wet wheel available, although other manufacturers produce wheels of other grits that will fit, but it is a bit of a pain to change them. The Veritas, on the other hand, has seven different grits available in self-sticking discs. These stick to a platter, available in 3mm for the finer grits and a 4mm platter for the heavier grits, with the platters being held down by a small centre-located brass thumbscrew. The result is an assortment of grits that are quick to change.

The Veritas machine has two tool guides, one for honing the primary bevel and the other for lapping the back. The Delta has one tool guide for working both surfaces. My machine will use the Delta system as the base, but instead of riding the tool on it, I’ll mount the tool in the Veritas Mk. II Honing Guide, and ride this guide on the tool guide. This will give me all the advantages of the honing guide that I love with the speed and quick-change ability of the modified Delta.

To make these modifications, I need a single part turned by a machinist; a collar that fits the cup cast into the bottom of the turntable that is bored and threaded to screw down on the Delta’s arbor. I have been in contact with the machinist that rebuilt my old man’s Stanley No.6 that I thought was a 7, but he has yet to reply. If I don’t hear from him by the end of this week, I will put the feelers out for another machinist.

Modifying the Delta to fit the Veritas parts is really pretty simple.
As you can see from the rendering below, it will also require three threaded holes on the top-side; two for the machine screws to fix the turntable to it, and one for the thumbscrew that holds the platters in place. The result uses the Delta collar to support the machined collar, the Delta’s arbor thread to hold the machined collar in place, and the rest of the assembly matches that of the Veritas machine.

All I need to make this work is a simple collar.
Because the Veritas turntable is beefy, well cast and balanced, and because it is only supporting lightweight platters and discs, instead of heavy stones, the wobble should be history and a versatile sharpening centre that also seconds as a grinder and polisher should rise from the Delta disaster.

Now I think that is pretty cool.



On another note, I have found a machine shop here in Toronto that will I can contract with to produce new pizza wheels (roller cutters) for the Stanley Metal Bar Gauges. I believe the same wheel was used on the Stanley No’s 90, 91, 97, 98, 197 and 198. I haven’t finalized the price as yet, but I am assuming they will be offered at somewhere between $12 and $18 Canadian. If you would be interested in purchasing one that is within this price-range, let me know and if there are enough responses, I will finalize the deal.

If you are interested in purchasing a new pizza wheel for your Stanley gauge, let me know.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Bed Bugs Make Lousy Carpenter Ants...

The pluses and minuses of condominium living differ from individual to individual, as does the relevance of each item on both lists. For me, never having to cut the lawn is way, way up there, followed closely by the fact I never have to clear the driveway of snow.

My reason for hating having to cut the lawn is simple; I have a huge allergy to grass; an allergy that isn’t activated until the grass is cut. Whether living in a house or in a condo, I know when the landscapers’ gang is busy cutting the lawn during the summer, even if I can’t hear them. My nose stuffing up and my breathing becoming labored is a dead giveaway. The difference between the house and condo is that in the condo, I don’t have to sign that bloody humongous cheque every month.

During the winter, every time I hear the weather forecast calling for snow, my appreciation for condominium living goes up a notch. Each forecast brings back memories of when we lived in the house and how much time I wasted clearing its driveway of snow. The wasted time wasn’t a result of the driveway's size as it wasn’t that big, although the layout did offer independent access to three parking spots. What consumed so much time was my inability to leave it without making sure the wall of snow around its perimeter perfectly followed the driveway’s footprint, as well as being perfectly square and plumb for its entire length. The reality is, I’m just way too anal to hire someone to do this job and way too anal to do it myself without wasting half a day in the process. Ya, I know. I’m a nut.

The benefits of not having to deal with these grass and snow are so great, the obvious minus of not having room for a dedicated shop pales in their comparison. Another reality is that what I used to pay a landscaper over the course of a summer to maintain the lawn was more than what my condo’s maintenance fees are for an entire year.

My wife is also not without her own obsessions. Her main one is maintaining a spic and span home. In truth, she drives me nuts with it, cleaning things around me before I even have a chance to make them dirty. She absolutely hates clutter, but sadly, she doesn’t put things away, she just removes things from view. This, of course, means I can never find anything at any time, a problem that she is no help with at all. As the only thing on her mind while cleaning is not having something out, she doesn’t have a clue where she puts it.

Up until now we have both been happy with our condo; my wife because, compared to the house, it has minimal floor space to fuss over, and me, because cutting lawns and removing snow aren’t on my to-do lists. We are, however, right in the middle of a minus that has such an impact on our lifestyles, neither of us ever imagined it could happen. It is such a minus, we might start looking for a house again.

What’s the issue now, you ask? Bedbugs!!!

I started out itching first, but as my wife wasn’t, I wrote it off to another allergy developing. When she started to display hives, my last thought was bugs and my first was the cause being an issue with air quality. Because I have a dog, I knew I had to rule out bugs before anyone would talk to me about testing the air, so I called in an exterminator.

The bug-guy arrived; white shirt, tie and uniform; one that had the company’s name blazing out from its left pocket. I swear the thing lit up as he walked. He nosed around, checking on, in and under everything. Fifteen minutes later and with us 50-bucks poorer, he came back to us and the first thing I noticed was his smile. It reminded me of smiles I had seen in photos of lottery winners. He announced we were “live”. My wife and I looked at each other because we were both thinking the same thing; what the hell is he talking about. That is when he said the magic words; “Live means you have bedbugs”.

Now I’m not big on bugs. I never pulled their wings off them when I was a kid because to do that, I would have to catch them and possibly touch them. I’ve camped a lot over my lifetime, but never without a couple of cases of “Off“ insect repellent. When he told us that we were proud owners of bedbugs, my skin just started to crawl. My wife, of course, took this news as a sign she wasn’t cleaning things enough, so God help me when we finally get through all of this. She will be scrubbing the varnish off the wood tables.

After doing a lot of research, I approached others in the building, as well as the building’s management, and starting asking questions. It didn’t take long to discover where these disgusting little buggers came from. Thinking it would make my wife feel better about her cleaning skills, I ran up to tell her what I learned. It didn’t make a lick of difference.

Bedbugs are vagabonds and hitchhikers who don’t give a hoot where they go or who they ride there with. They are an equal opportunity parasite that don’t give a damn how much money you make, how clean your house is, or whether or not you shower at night or bathe in the morning. As long as you have human blood running through your veins, they are happy. We, as things turned out, had done nothing wrong that would entice these things to sleep with us, other than being dumb enough to move next store to the morons we now live beside.

If you don’t do your research or use a professional exterminator, neither of which our neighbors did, you usually don’t end up killing the buggers, but instead, you send them away. I just hope these damned bugs appreciate that they didn’t have to walk far to join us. What I discovered was that our neighbors sprayed enough Raid around their place daily to kill the cast of “Them!” (a 1954 movie about giant ants). I learned this from the owner’s friends as afterwards, he bragged about how he got rid of them. It would appear that he didn’t give a second’s thought to why there was no dead bugs lying around his apartment.

My first thought was to react in kind; start spraying the place like a maniac and, hopefully, send the buggers back were they came from. I had met the guy a few times before all of this and during both conversations, I remember thinking that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. I made up my mind to stop the bugs here by killing them, assuming that we would probably end up playing musical bugs until one of us moved if I didn’t.

After more research and more information from the exterminator, we ended up “cooking” just about everything we own. We put “soft” items; meaning linens and clothes, in the dryer, even those that couldn’t be washed first due to the material they were made from. The “hard” items; smaller pieces of furniture or parts of larger pieces, shoes, books, area carpets, pictures, paper files, and of course, all my tools were placed in a Styrofoam box I made up using duct tape. The drying had its own source of heat, and I heated the hotbox with a hotplate I bought a while ago for heating my hide glue. Adult bedbugs survive for about 10 minutes in temperatures above 120°F (49°C). With the dryer set on high and the hotbox kept at 140°F, we left everything we placed in both for a minimum of 40 minutes. As bedbugs have some pretty specific nesting habits, we could pretty much count on these items not containing eggs, which is something to keep in mind as the heat kills the adults, but it doesn’t have any effect on the eggs. When the items came out of the dryer or hotbox, they were immediately placed in garbage bags or cardboard boxes, both which were quickly sealed with packing tape. The idea behind this method is to kill any adult bugs present and by sealing the items up, it removes as many hiding places as possible for the next generation, once they hatch.

This exercise took five days and our livingroom/diningroom looks like some bizarre, alien warehouse.

After we finished up yesterday afternoon, the bug-guy returned and he dry-steamed all of the furniture and beds which killed the adults that were present. Between his steam and our heat, we pretty much eradicated the entire colony which the bug-guy believes was divided into three nests. He then sprayed some chemical around the circumference of each room to try and contain the next generation to those areas. That is the bugger in all of this, as the new crop of bugs will slowly increase in numbers over the next 10 days, which is the gestation period for these things. To allow for slow learners, he will be back in 14 days to do the same process all over again. We, thankfully, will not have to do ours, but we have to keep everything in the bags and boxes until the end, which is a real bummer. That means no normal life for the two weeks between treatments, plus another two weeks until he inspects to ensure they are all pushing daisies. It is possible we could have failed and have to do the regiment all over again, but I'm trying not to think of that scenario.

It is easy to get bedbugs into your home, moderately difficult to force them to leave, and beyond a royal pain in the ass to kill them.

The one highlight for me in all of this was that I had to pack up all of my tools, going through 8 large plastic storage containers in the process. If you haven’t done this recently, I highly recommend it, sans the bugs, of course, It brings your collection into perspective as you have to handle each tool as you pack, it gives you little surprises because you come across the odd one you forgot you bought, and I can vouch for it being a great activity to take your mind off your bedbugs.


Oh, ya…and don’t let the bedbugs bite.


Added Sunday, Nov. 27

So what's the dilly-oh with this post? Other than one short paragraph, it hasn't anything to do with tools or woodworking, so what's up?

While I tried to make light of this situation with our new house-pets, I am a tad ticked by this whole thing. Naw, that's not true...I'm pissed!

Bed bug infestation is at epidemic levels across North America and has been for more than five years. These little shits infest more households than all the other bugs combined, yet every year the epidemic grows by 7 to 10 percent.

The reason for this is because my neighbour is not alone. By some estimates, almost half of those infected with bed bugs react irresponsibly because they either want to save a buck, or they are embarrassed. Whatever the reason, they only serve to make this situation even worse.

Yesterday, I found out one of my wife's relatives had them. He is part of the wealthy side of the family, lives in a 17,000 square foot home worth about $21-million and has a staff of three that spend their lives taking care of the house and grounds. I would think it would be a safe bet to say his kitchen garbage can gets emptied at least four times a day, as is usual for the ladida crowd. If his house can become infested, anyone's can. So how did he react? He packed up his wife and kids and took them to a hotel for the month while the staff and the exterminators dealt with the infestation. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Absolutely not!

In all probability, he took a few bugs with him to the hotel, allowing them to establish yet another colony. Instead of packing the family's bags and making a run for it, he should have taken the necessary steps to make sure any live bugs weren't included before they walked out the door. Simply throwing the clothes in the dryer and packing them in clean plastic bags would have been the right thing to do, but emotions (or just not giving a shit) over-rode common sense.

The reason for this article is to bring some attention to this problem, however small the audience.

Even if you think you don't have bed bugs, check the following once a week...

  • Check out the seams, creases and folds of your mattress and box spring weekly.
  • Check the joints in your headboard as well as the bed frames, even if they are metal.
  • Check the underside of chairs and couches, as well as beneath and between their cushions.
  • Inspect the perimeter of each room, especially in any gaps in the baseboards.
  • Inspect telephones, radios, clocks and other electronic equipment.

Remember to make these checks once a week.

If you discover you have them, there is only one responsible way to react...

  • Call in a professional exterminator and follow his directives to ensure you eradicate your colony.

Don't spread them - kill them.

Ok, I feel better now...



Monday, 21 November 2011

Crazed Drill...

I started messin' with wood over a half-century ago, being introduced to it in the same way many of you have; through my old man. To say that our relationship was "rocky" over the years would be the epitome of the understatement, but tools and wood were always our constant. 

My old man found pure joy in the woodworking processes. Fitting two pieces of wood together with spectacular precision was always his goal, no matter how simple or complex the joint. For him, a tool was something to respect, but not for the tool itself, but for what he could achieve with it. All he saw in a tool was its function, and he didn't give a rat's ass about its form.

For me, it was always the opposite. When I look at a tool, I see its form first, then assess its ability to function. As with most things in my life; I could care less about the destination as I am too busy enjoying getting there.

The differences in my old man's and my ideologies can be seen in our tool collections. At the end of his career, the old bugger sold me his collection, which consisted of about 60-odd basic hand tools (there is a list of them on this blog somewhere). My collection is now approaching 400 different tools, and while I doubt I will ever put the vast majority of them to use, whenever the thought of getting rid of them comes up, I suddenly turn into Charlton Heston and start mumbling about cold dead hands.

My last post was over a month ago, and it was nothing more than a list of tools I though I should part with. As things turned out, it was like sending out invitations to a party and having no-one show up. I sold one of the fourteen I had listed, and thinking about it now, I'm not exactly upset about the results.

A few days after posting that list I had a rather bizarre situation arise. I had finished doing a little woodworking and was putting away my tools when I was attacked by a drill. I hadn't even used this drill that day. It was just sitting out on the cabinet because I really don't have a proper storage place for it. It is a Ryobi 18 volt combo screw gun and drill, and for some reason, it decided to just jump off the cabinet and stab me.

I whipped up a little animation to show you what happened...

While it doesn't seem to be a big deal, here is what my ankle looked like twenty days later...

You can see the hole to the left of the ankle bone where the drill bit entered, penetrating about a half inch and nicking the bone in the process. It took two weeks before I was able to walk on it again, and was as painful as a son-of-a-bitch.

I'm starting to get a complex regarding drills, given all the nonsense I have been through with them over this past two years.



Monday, 10 October 2011

Up Against The Wood Wall...Again...

Chris Schwarz's Lost Art Press ran a series of articles on good ol' Mr. Studley's Tool Chest last week.

I first got turned on to Henry O. Studley's tool chest back in the late 80's when Lee Valley Tools used an image of it for one of their catalogue covers. When I built the house I was living in then, I added one of the major items I had always wanted; a built-in magazine rack and book shelf in the can. That catalogue sat in that rack for over a year and I spent a great deal of time studying that cover while doing...ahem...other things, trying to figure out how Studley did it. Studley's work is beyond amazing.

I believe credit for this image should go to Fine Woodworking magazine,
but I have enhanced it considerably since finding it.

What I didn't know until recently was that Studley built a workbench that matched his tool cabinet. Chris has also written an article about it; a teaser for Don Williams' book about Studley's work.

This is Chris Schwarz's image of Studley's workbench, which he will probably kill me for
because I messed with it; straightening out camera distortion, changing the
lighting a bit and getting rid of the distracting background.

I tried to build a modified version of Studley's tool cabinet with no luck, even after making three attempts to get it right. The biggest problem is that I ended up buying more tools than ol' Henry. Who knew I would enjoy the hunt and the purchase of old tools as much as I enjoy using them? The second problem is that I don't have room for a workbench and a floor-style tool cabinet, and won't have for the foreseeable future. Another major problem was that I kept ending up with odd shaped areas that wasn't large enough to hold anything I owned, or any that I planned to purchase. It was a livable irritation, but an irritation nonetheless. After completing the plant shelving unit I have been working on for 10-months now, I plan to build a combination bench and tool cabinet, sort of like a Melhuish No.100, but one on steroids.

This example of a Melhuish No.1 was sold by David Stanley
Auctions in 2004 for a few cents off of $3000.
Chris' latest entry in this series is in regards to how much flak he has taken for being involved in the Studley project in the first place. I haven't been running up against this situation as long as Schwarz has, but I have probably bounced off of it more often than him. Being one of these guys who questions everything, then has the cajones to actually question the answers, I have run up against the "wood wall" Chris is talking about in this post more times than I care to image. Recently, an example of this just played out, and again, it was instigated by a Chris Schwarz post.

Chris ran an interview with Konrad Sauer from Sauer & Steiner Toolworks regarding his newly designed "K13". This new plane design for Sauer started to sprout legs on some previous thoughts I had on planes, thoughts that I had been forming for a while. In general, these thoughts were directed, overall, to the height of hand placement while using a traditional plane, and specifically, dealing with the high Centre of Gravity those high hand-holds produce.

This is an image of the Sauer & Steiner K13 Panel Plane. Sauer's customer
wanted a plane that oozed speed. Me? I just want one that doesn't
feel like it is going to fall over all the time.

Sauer brought the front knob down considerably and gave the lines more sweep as they moved towards the rear of the plane for an appearance of speed. I'm not interested in a fast looking plane, mainly because I know that saying "speed" and "hand planing" in the same sentence is an oxymoron. I was, however, very interested in that lower front knob. By the time I finished reading the interview, my thoughts had legs that ran as long as the knees. By the time I had finished reading everything that was posted about it on the Sauer & Steiner blog, they had ankles, arches and even toes.

I didn't find one comment about the low knob causing problems during planing anywhere. In fact, all I read was the exact opposite. As a result, I kept asking myself, "why keep the tote and knob so high?"

I "get" that planes have a traditional design and the world of woodworking has been following the basis of that design for centuries. I "get" that a high centre of gravity has been build purposely into the planes by utilizing tall totes and knobs. I "get" that the reason for this is so the user can better gauge the tool's plumb during use. I "get" all that. I also "get" that everyone in the world, for centuries, thought the world was flat, too.

My belief is that, while the high centre of gravity offers a built-in gauge for plumb, this benefit may be outweighed by the possibility that the high centre of gravity adds more to being off plumb than the operator of the tool could manage without it. Plane the edge with a block plane and you stand a far better chance of remaining on plumb than when you plane the same edge with a bench plane, at least for me. I think it is because the high COG forces the plane out of plumb more than the operator does. Please don't tell me about the guiding finger of the forward hand, I already use it. You still have to push the plane with the tote, and that is where the wiggly-wobblies come into play.

I also think the angle of the operator's wrist has a lot to do with getting off plumb too. To plane properly on a proper height bench with a traditional designed plane, you end up with a crook in your wrist that is not conducive to keeping the plane plumb. It is also not conducive to varying the pressure between heavy forward and light downward, and light forward and heavy downward either.

Lowering the tote would cause its angle to reduce, resulting in the operator's wrist being less-cocked. A more natural angle to the wrist means less stress on it, less weight trying to throw it off plumb and easier variance of pressure. At least that's how I see it, although the only way I could prove it is to have one made and try it out, an expensive exercise in experimentation if ever there was one. That is because there isn't anything written about this, and I sure haven't seen a plane made this way. Why? I have no idea. It could be that I am so wet with this, I'm drowning, or it could be that we have all been following this design religiously for so long, going against it would be, for a plane maker, like falling on his float.

I know the most common answer to this question before it is even uttered. "If I learn to use the traditional plane design properly, I will see the high COG as an advantage. Until I do learn how to use it properly, the high COG will always work as a disadvantage. From my perspective, whether I have learned to use a traditional plane properly or not is an irrelevant argument. With enough practice, you can train yourself to overcome pretty much anything, even swinging a golf club in its proper, but unnatural way.

Maybe in time I will be able to put this thought to bed, but in the meantime, I actually was stupid enough to write it all down and send it to a plane maker I know and am considering using. I think my quest for answers wasn't met with the same joy as it saw when written. In other words, I haven't heard from the guy since.

As to Chris' report on meeting the "wood wall". I left the following comment...

"I have come to believe that there isn’t any species of wood out there that is quite as unbending as the average dedicated woodworker’s mind."



P.S.: Considering that dropping 4 to 6-grand on one plane is not conducive to my wife's belief that she shouldn't have to hide from our bank manager when she visits the bank, I will be listing some duplicate and "ok, I like it, but I don't love it" tools I am selling very soon. All proceeds from the sale of these tools will be going to the "Infill Plane Payment Foundation". I am just working on the images of the tools included which are:
1 - tack hammer - not so new - not so expensive
8 - Stanley Everlast chisels - conditions from "its ok" to "hey, that's pretty good"
1 - General Angle Divider with its original box
1 - Stanley Speed Drill with most of its original bits
1 - solid wheel Stanley No.624
1 - very good Stanley No.5 Type 11 plane 
1 - never used QTG laser beam level with case and - are you ready for it - original batteries still unused - wow!
I should have these posted before the end of this week.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Overcoming Life's Little Irritants, And Making Bigger Ones In The Process...

My ever beautiful, vivacious, kind, loving, but completely irrational wife insisted on “anything but an iPhone” when it came time to update her cell phone recently. This is probably due to my actions, more than hers.

Come on. Be honest with me. How many of you, while involved in something your really into, have either turned off your cell phone’s ringer, or turned the phone off completely? Then, when questioned by your wives why you didn’t pick up the phone when she called, you have answered with; “Gosh, it didn’t ring the whole time I was there. It must have been a bad signal”?

I used that con so many times, my wife believe the iPhones are crap. They are, of course, but don’t tell the members of the Apple cult that or you will be taking your life into your own hands.

So I bought my wife a Blackberry Tour.

If I were “joe-executive”, I would buy a Blackberry in a minute. Hands down, it is probably the fastest, most reliable cell phone out there that is configured and formatted with the businessman in mind. But I’m not joe-exec, so the thing is just a pain in the ass for me, but hey, it’s my wife’s phone so I don’t really care. Hers or not, it did presented me with a dilemma.

I started to write an explanation of the whys, hows and whatnots of this dilemma, but when I realized that I was typing away on page number 10, I wiped it all out and instead, will give you the abbreviated version.

Bluetooth equipped (as per all cell phones these days)
2007 Ford Fusion
Not Bluetooth equipped - became standard in 2008 (figures)
To set up the common frequency between two devices and establish the encryption they will use to attempt to keep the contents of their communication private
Pairing Devices
Available aftermarket ranging from $9 to $1000
Mounted by  suction cups larger than my wife’s bra, clasps that scratch the dashboard piece just showing them to each other, or possible positions result in wiring hanging down in front of the driver
Make my own
The following “hands-free” cell phone unit that will mount the phone without damaging the dashboard components and will allow the phone conversation to be heard through the car’s stereo

Product used
Griffith Hands-Free Microphone and AUX Cable
One wire from the phone to the mic, mic plugs into the auxiliary jack on the car’s stereo
Fusion has auxiliary jack buried in the console glove box
Buried the wires between the phone and the mic in the phone’s mount pad, installed the mic in a tower beside the phone, allow the pad to swivel and make everything robust enough to take my wife’s abuse
3-hours per day over a 4-day period
Last procedure
Drilled pad for swivel mount
Procedures remaining
Drilled through the damned buried wiring!!!
None - its pure junk now!!!



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Was It A Tool Show Or An Economics 101 Lesson...

The Tools of the Trade Show took place today in Pickering, Ontario. This is one of the very, very few vintage tool shows that takes place in Canada, and probably the only one of its size in Ontario.

I arrived late with a wife who was ticked because I had been hocking (Yiddish for pestering) her all morning to hurry up. She slept in, buggered around until 10:30, and wondered why I was a tad upset the entire 20 mile drive to the show's location. It started at 10 and we didn't arrive until almost 11:15. I had visions of viewing nothing but empty tables.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Pickering Recreational Centre, where the show was held, has a huge parking lot and it was filled almost to capacity. Dozens of people were leaving as we arrived, and a fair number were hanging around the entrance, standing in the rain, as we approached. We pulled up with me thinking my chances of finding something I wanted were slim, and that feeling increased as I saw all of this taking place around me. We walked through the doors, paid the 5-bucks a head entrance fee, and hit the event hall.

The hall was full of both people and tables.

The tables held tools and the people didn't.

What the hell was going on here?

I did my first circuit around the room. In general, I wasn't impressed with the quality or type of tools that was being displayed.

I did my second circuit around the room. In general, I wasn't impressed with the price displayed on many of the tools.

I did my third circuit around the room. In general, I wasn't impressed with how the sellers were dealing with the lack of sales.

I did my forth circuit around the room. In general, I was ticked with a lot of the so-called buyers.

The Quality of Tools
For the most part, many of the usual dealers were present and accounted for, although one of the first things I noticed was that MJD Tools was missing this time. While there was the odd quality piece of enticement sitting front and centre of some of the booths, most displayed mainly cheaper, not-so-rare stuff that probably ¾ of those attending already had.

Doug Orr's booth displayed the highest number of quality pieces, a Clifton No. 4 in particular, one of their first offerings, certainly caught my eye. Wider than a Stanley, done in green instead of black and displaying a lot more bling, it is a plane that will shock you when you first pick it up, as it weighs a ton. At $245, it was a good buy for those that wanted an excellent plane or collected original Cliftons. That isn't me, though, so reluctantly, I put it back. I also noticed a couple of amazingly large goose-wing axes laying on his "magic carpet" section, but putting an axe in my hands is just asking for trouble, so I didn't even get close.

Dave "ToolRush" Carriere's booth was not quite as loaded this time around as last, and overall, the quality of tools wasn't near the last show's level. I did notice something impressive about Dave, though. I can't remember if it was the last show or the one before it, but I do remember asking him if he had any Stanley #50 chisels. He said he didn't have them at that show, and gave me his card. I forgot about giving him a call, but I remembered the minute I saw a "Harlequin" set of #40's sitting front and centre at this event. Good on him. He remembered someone asking and included them.

Sauer & Steiner Toolworks, were absent at this show. I missed them. I didn't miss making a fool out of myself with them like I did at the last show, but I missed their new No. 3 that I was looking forward to seeing in the flesh.

Type of Tools
The group that this show is sponsored through is, The Tool Group of Canada. Because of that, I shouldn't complain that some of the booths mainly displayed vintage tools and machinery from the blacksmith, electrical and plumbing categories, as all of these are encompassed by the group's interests. The first tool I looked at after walking through the doors was a beautiful miniature metal lathe with a sold sticker on it. Damn! All of that said, while the last show had more vintage apple peelers than I could count, in truth, I thought this show included too much of the "other" categories, but I'm biased as I love old woodworking tools. I know those in charge will say I'm nit-picking here, but the show has a name for woodworking tools, has leaned severely in that direction since I started attending it, it is what I go to the show for, so when I see floor space taken up by a mechanically-driven-left-handed-reverse-counter-boring threading machine, when it could display a mother-load of vintage Stanley planes, I get a little disappointed.

This wasn't at the show. I just enjoy messing with images like this.

They were wayyyyyy tooooooo high - 'nuf said.

I heard way too many complaining to their friends that they weren't making any sales. The fact that they were so busy commiserating with each other, they weren't readily available to answer some questions I had for some, meant that their crying in their beer actually cost them a few sales. A few that I was able to lay a few questions on weren't the dealers themselves, but stand-ins, and they couldn't answer them, so again, a few tools I was interested in buying went unsold.

There was one tool that I was really interested in buying; an old, craftsman made leg-vice. The problem with it was that it was the wrong way around. The sliding bar at the bottom was attached to the back leg with the front leg sliding back and forth on it. I believe it should have been the other way around, so that when the vice was closed, a chunk of wood wasn't sticking out across the floor in front of it. I noticed the incorrect set-up right away, and put down my bag and flashlight (its not the brightest lit show and I'm blind, remember) and had a close look at it to be sure I was right about it. I still would have bought it, as reversing it wouldn't be much work, but instead of acknowledging what I was saying, the seller decided to educate me on the finer points of leg-vices. If he had said, "Your right. Let's deal", I would have bought it for 50-bucks instead of the $55 he was asking. The point is, though, he didn't even suggest I might have been right about it, but instead, tried to convince me I was wrong. I think he went home with it.

Ok, guys. Listen up. At tool shows, the tools on the table in front of you are for sale. The guy behind the table paid big bucks to be there so he can sell them. He needs as many as possible to see them, pick them up and talk to him about them. That is how he sells them. That is how he feeds his kids. You and your buddy standing front and centre of the table and talking to each other about the last show you were at, or where you got coffee on the way to the show that morning isn't doing the seller a damned bit of good, in fact, your lack of consideration is actually costing him money, not to mention really ticking off those of us who haven't viewed the guy's wares yet, and can't. If you want to talk about something other than buying one of the tools sitting in front of you, move your butts off to one side so someone who might want to buy something - can.

Ohhhh. That vent felt sooo goooood.

By the way, being a rude bugger and eavesdropping on some of the "table-crowder's" conversations, I got the distinct feeling the majority of them were members of The Tool Group of Canada, who should have known better.

There was a lot going against the sellers at the Fall 2011 Tools of the Trade Show, including the sellers themselves. Mainly, though, it was just the fact that the whole thing is about selling discretionary items in a less than forgiving economy that caused many buyers to leave grumbling and empty handed, myself included. Hopefully, the economy will pick up for the next show in April 2012, and the sellers will be back, wiser and better prepared to deal.

I came home and went online to Jim Bode Tools and bought a couple of miniature wire cutters and pliers. I would have bought more but Jim hasn't completed the 2011 Economics 101 course yet.



Sunday, 25 September 2011

Inovation Is The Mother Of Invention...

As I have mentioned, my shop space is in my office, located across a 9-foot-wide room from all my computer machinery. It is a funny thing about all the computers I have owned over the years. I have never owned one that didn't have allergies; all being specifically allergic to dust. With a room full of computers that are prone to sneezing, having a dust-producing woodworking set up in the same room isn't the smartest thing I have ever done, but it exists in this manner as there are only two other alternatives; quit making a living, or quit woodworking. Neither of those options are acceptable to me.
When a dusty job comes up, I have to use a little ingenuity to get it done without wiping out the price of a new car in computer equipment. I have tried covering everything with plastic, but that ate up too much time. I have tried popping over to a friends to do the dirty deed, but I'm not comfortable in other people's environments. Recently, though, I new one came to mind while I was out walking my dog one afternoon.
Out back of our condo building is a catch-basin, one that includes a open-angled wood retaining wall. Walking over, I checked for height, and while it is a tad too high, I figured it might be just the ticket the next time a dirty job came up. It wasn't long after realizing that wall could be useful that a job came up which allowed me to put it to the test.
I am making crown mouldings for my current, never-ending project, which is making my wife a plant shelving unit. As with anything made with hand tools, it takes forever, even though the design is pretty basic. Below is a quick line-drawing of how I am putting the crown moulding together.
Surprisingly, working with planes produces very little dust, as does scrapping and scratch work. The two big dust-producers are sawing anything and some specific sanding. When I sand finishes, it produces a lot of dust, but it doesn't get airborne, so if I vacuum up the mess regularly, and don't move the pieces being sanded around, the resulting dust is not an issue. Saw the end off a 1 x 2 piece of pine, though, and the dust seems to bred in the air and what I made, plus all its offspring, land on everything everywhere.
The cheapest and quickest way to produce the filler piece needed behind the angled face was to rip a piece of 2" x 2" poplar stock down the middle on the 45, and that, I knew, was going to produce some serious dust.
Of course the best way to handle this would be to grab the stock, saw and sawhorse, and head outside and just do it, but living in a condo doesn't allow you to do things easily. Understand that the one thing condo life doesn't have is space. You trade that off for not having to cut the lawn or shovel the snow. To explain just how tight some condos are when it comes to space, let me relate this little story. My wife and I once invested in some new condos and townhouses that were being built. When the builder asked me how I liked them, I told them they were fine, but anyone who ends up living in them would never be able to go on vacation again. He asked if that was because the mortgage payments would be too high, and I answered, "No. There is no place to store their suitcases once they return home". Hence, until I can come up with a design for a foldable sawhorse that is stable when open, I don't have one.
On the first cool summer's day, one where the temperature dropped below 80°F (27°C), I grabbed the 2 x 2 stock, a 3-foot piece of 1 x 2, my favourite ripsaw, and my latest invention...a portable hold-down, and off I went to cut some wood. Getting to the knee wall, The first thing I did was cut the 1" x 2" stock in half, then I cut a "V" in the centre of each one, as shown in the image below.
Beautiful old Disston from about 1900. When I get to Heaven, I'm going
to give "KCR" a piece of my mind for making his mark on this tool so
badly. I will, that is, if those in charge of admissions
forgave him for what he did to this saw.
Placing those two pieces of 1 x 2 on top of the wall at right angles to the 6 x 6, I then placed the 2 x 2 in the "V's", which held it on the bias. My new portable hold-down is unique, in that it is voice activated, so I tapped the 2 x 2 at a point between the two 1 x 2's and stated, "Hold wood here". Impressively, the hold-down kicked into action and positioned itself at the point I had indicated and held the stock down firmly. It was quite amazing, as you can see for yourself if you click on the thread of the image below.
Modifying and adapting one tool to do something it wasn't designed
to do is not only fun, it is quite rewarding.
While I did a great job modifying this piece of equipment, if I do say so myself, if I had to do it again, I would start with the more basic model that doesn't have voice communication. Talking to it to give it directions is fine, but sometimes it gets a glitch in its programming, and it talks back way too much and becomes irritating. While this particular hold-down looks great, I would start with the cheaper model next time as this one is way to pricy for what it does. (and with that, I'm sleeping on the couch for the next month)
As the slope in the land dropped off away from the wall, the stock was way too high to cut with traditional body placement, so invoking the French sawing position that Chis Schwarz reintroduced a while ago, only this time standing up. I positioned myself beside the stock, developed a slightly different hand-hold on the saw that Chris demonstrated, as shown below, and went to town, ripping the 8-foot 2 x 2 in about a half hour, give or take due to having to take the odd break.
A modified "French" grip made easier by Disston's addition of a second hole.
The breaks, by the way, were due to the hold-down pad's inability to maintain pressure on the corner of the stock for long periods of time. Frustratingly, it would release itself without warning, and to make matters worse, its voice abilities would kick in. The one thing I wasn't able to figure out is how to add an "off" switch to this unit. When it would let go like this, it would run on wildly and there was nothing I could do but let it run its course and once it exhausted itself, reset it and start again. (add a second month on the couch)
Even though the day was overcast, those breaks did allow me to appreciate the time and effort I spent French Polishing the handle on this saw. Many thanks to Stephen Shephard at the Full Chisel Blog for his instructions as, after viewing the results with the sunlight kicking it up, it put a smile on my face for hours afterwards.
You cannot beat French Polishing for finishing a tool's handle.
In the shop, its beautiful.
In the sunlight - wow!
Images taken with an iPhone
NOTE: The "Tools of the Trade Show" takes place Sunday, October 2nd at the Pickering Recreation Complex in Pickering, Ontario. While my exposure to vintage tool shows is limited, I have never left this one disappointed as there are always enough items to view and buy to make me happy I made the effort to attend.
If anyone needs any information or help attending this event, just email me and I will be happy to help if I can.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Ok, world, this is how it is done…

Here’s the story behind this story…
Sharpening tools is time consuming and because my time for workin’ wood is limited, I often hold off sharpening a tool that could use a touch-up. The reason for this is that I simply would rather spend the time actually workin’ wood than pushing a chisel across a hunk of sandpaper. I know this isn’t smart, so I started looking at many of the commercial blade sharpening machines available today. Two things struck me about these dedicated machines; a) they are all way too expensive for what they do, and b) the work they can do is limited to the finer points of sharpening on a single horizontal wheel. This is ok for new tools, but it seems like every hundred-year-old tool I have bought, the last one to use it didn’t have a clue about angles, flat backs and micro edges. The result is that the blades often require considerable work before they can be finely tuned.

As I did my research, the Delta Sharpening Centre kept popping up all over the place. As this machine offers up two wheels; one vertical and a fine one on the horizontal, I gave up on the other $300 machines and started researching it. I discovered it was one of Delta’s usual offerings; a sound idea made so cheaply, it crashed and burned.

From all the complaints about the machine that I found, which were too numerous to count, the base machine was fine, as was the vertical wheel. Where the problems developed was balancing the horizontal wheel so the machine wouldn’t vibrate. Downloading all the different machine’s explosive parts drawings that I could find, I soon learned where the problem lies in the Delta machine, or at least I think I did. In fact, I am so confident that there is a way to fix this issue, I started looking for a machine to purchase.

Here’s the problem with the machine…
All of the dedicated horizontal-wheel sharpening machines have a balanced metal plate under their entire sharpening surface; whether that surface is a grinding wheel or proprietary plates or sheets. The Delta 23-710 Sharpening Centre machines do not have this. To keep the costs down, they used something that is more or less an oversize washer that is about 3-inches in diameter. Expecting something this small to balance an 8-inch wheel is more than just wishful thinking; its dumb.

Re-jig the wheel mount by adding a full sized, balanced aluminum plate that will fully support the soft, 1000 grit, 8-inch wet wheel.

How to do this was something I couldn't answer until I bought one and had it sitting in front of me.

As Delta no longer makes this machine, I had some problems coming up with a good one in the used market place. One or two came up on eBay, but there was always something that kept me from buying them. The most common reason is my most common irritation with eBay sellers; being that many American sellers won’t ship to Canada. I guess turning away a potential 33-million bidders that could drive up their selling price isn’t worth the added shipping hassles. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I subscribe to Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools Auction’s newsletters that arrive in my inbox every Tuesday and Thursday. I do so because they list some pretty incredible tools in their auctions, although I have yet to come across anything made by H. E. Mitchell. Damn!

A while ago, a Delta 23-710 was listed in one of those newsletters so I entered a maximum bid of $150. I won the machine for less than that, and with’s usual professional ways, they charged my Visa for the purchase price plus shipping, and within days the machine was delivered to my door.

Oh, oh…
I didn’t have time to open the box right away but finally, a week later, I went through my unpacking ritual. As I got everything out of the box and laid out on the floor, I discovered that the machine had been shipped with the knife sharpening attachment still attached to the machine. This attachment is a wide adjustable flat that you use to rest a jointer knife on. During shipping, the post office had thrown this heavy box around so much that they snapped the casting. Every time they threw it after that, the resulting large, untethered hunk of metal thrashed around inside the box, taking out the plastic water spray guard and gouging the horizontal wheel.

Given the similar experience I just went through with the infamous Miller Falls tool restorer that will still rename nameless (email me if you want his name), I had some serious concerns about this problem which were further exasperated by discovering that the total cost of the damaged parts was $146.60 plus shipping.

I took a couple of photos and sent off an email to Martin listing the costs of the damaged parts.

This is the way a pro handles these situations…
Yesterday, I received an email in response to my claim from Kathy at In it she stated; “I made a credit on your charge card today for the full amount that you paid”.

I was astounded, astonished, dumbfounded, stupefied and literally blown away. They just didn't reimburse me for the damaged parts. They reimbursed me for the total amount that I paid for the machine plus the shipping. In other words, I got the machine for free, and now I have to just pay for the replacement parts out of the full credit.

In this day and age, who the hell treats their customers so well?



A follow-up about trying to replace the broken Delta machine's parts...
The one thing I didn't check before purchasing this machine is the availability of Delta/Porter-Cable parts in Canada, something I usually do before purchasing anything like this, new or used. While this shouldn't be a concern for this type of thing, and I hope my American readers won't be offended by reporting this, but the norm with many of these larger American-run companies is that they want to sell in the Canadian market, and actually buy up smaller Canadian manufacturers to do so, and then leave us hanging for support with the purchases afterwards. Delta/Porter-Cable is one of those companies that fall into this category.

In this case, Delta has an online parts site called ServiceNet. I went on it, found the parts I needed and ordered them. When it came time to pay the bill, their shopping cart form wouldn't accept Canadian addresses. There is no site like this for Canadians and the American site does not even include a Canadian Service Centre location finder.

I sent off an email to Delta which included a screen capture of my Shopping Cart list. I'll keep you posted regarding the results.