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Thursday, 27 August 2009

Saws to make your mouth water!

I've just received a big pile of parcels from Gyokucho in Japan. I don't want to let too much out of the bag yet, but this little treasure was among them.

The Kuroko is an ultra lightweight yet incredibly fast pistol grip saw. The whole thing including the sheath weighs 10 ounces and the saw itself only five, but boy does it get through timber at a rate of knots! A mate popped round while I was taking pictures of them for the website, took one look and bought the one I was photographing on the spot.

Speaking of saws, I've also fixed a date next week to go up to Sheffield for product training with Atkinson Walker. Their range of circular saw blades is mind boggling to say the least, but if we are to list their full selection of hand smithered loveleyness, I am determined to understand every aspect of them in order to ensure that customers can get the best advice possible on which blade to choose.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Stamjarns and Teardrops (fixing a very old problem)

People sometimes ask me how I select products for Workshop Heaven and I have always had difficulty giving them a straight answer. Traditionally retailers look for shiny, nicely packaged products that are heavily marketed and available at the drop of a hat from the manufacturer or wholesaler. I will forgoe all the above for a product that is made right, or has fixable issues, and is preferably not widely available.

The Swedes are naturally blessed with some of the purest iron ore on the planet, they make excellent high carbon steel from it, which they forge into really solid chisels that will last a lifetime. Then they put atrocious uncomfortable handles on to deter rational people from buying them. It has always been so, whether its a 90 year old A.E. Berg or a new C.I Fall, the handles let the side down every time.

I asked C.I Fall if they would consider having a redesigned handle made, similar to their (surprisingly good) turning handles, a very polite 'not at the moment' came back from Anders Fall - one of the most down to earth guys you could ever want to meet by the way. Much to Anders' dismay a purchase order for tangs followed and my quest began to find the perfect handle.

The original handles are assymetric and I wanted to retain this feature as it would mean the handle could be rotated 90 degrees and used for the morticers as well - matching set sir? Very nice.

I liked the knurled ferrule on the originals so that will be staying although the square section, clarty dipped finish and the hoop are all deeply and profoundly wrong so all of those concepts have been binned. That left me with:

*an oval section,
*a rounded top,
*something that would be suitable for heavy malleting
*would work with bench chisels and moticers.

Then it clicked, teardrops! Mouthwateringly comfortable, directional, very traditional, sold!

A couple of calls with Colin in Sheffield and the deal was done. They will be double turned from beech, which fits with the best bits of the Scaninavian ethos. Carefully sanded, fitted with thick knurled brass ferrules, given a good soak in tung oil and then hand rubbed to a soft sheen. I've bought a thumping great cast iron Victorian lever press by W.B. Haigh of Oldham to fit them, which reminds me, I must remember to get Len Cooper to machine me a new part for it.

All in all, not too much effort to fix something that has dogged Swedish chisel manufacturers for well over a century. The grinding is still miles off from cabinetmakers chisels but good quality bevelled firmers that can take a thwacking are a surprisingly rare treat these days, so with a bit of a marketing to let folks know about them, they should be quite popular.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Now THAT'S a tenon saw!

Pax Saws

14 inches of best CS80 high carbon spring steel, toothed for hardwoods, with a hand polished, folded brass back and a hand finished, closed handle in selected elm.

I commisioned these saws in response to a request from a customer for a pair of big saws with closed handles, specifically for cutting tenons in hardwoods. Whist doing my research I soon discovered that over the last 100 years or so, tenon saws have evolved to meet the needs of joiners as this has historically been the bigger market. It hasn't been sudden, just a gentle process of allowing cabinetmaking saws to drift out of the catalogue pages, but process has now evolved to the point where people think that a tenon saw is 'wrong' if it doesn't conform to the joiners standard of a fast cutting aggressive saw that is rarely, if ever, actually used for cutting tenons.

By all accounts, a proper cabinetmakers tenon saw is a finer toothed beast that relies on a long stroke for its efficiency. It should start easily and flow smoothly and accurately through the cut, leaving a perfectly square edge and a barely repressable urge to go and cut another one right now! (handy if you've got several to do).

I was on the point of making the commercial decision whether to just have the two made for the customer, or to go the whole hog, put in a proper production order and stock them, when I read this in an article by David Savage:

"It will be a sad day when a cabinet maker can't actually pick up a saw and cut a piece of wood dead straight, trim the end of a tenon or cut a mitre just shy of the line. But sometimes it feels like that day isn't too far away"

Well sod that, I thought, and promptly put my money where my heart was and ordered the first batch.

Christian Ellis has been an absolute pleasure to work with on this project. Even with my "sorry but the handles are not quite right, can you re-do them please" shenanigins, he has been a consummate professional throughout, and should be more widely recognised as one of the rising stars of proper English toolmaking. The first batch arrived last week and the rest are trickling in as and when Christian can get hold of elm that is of an acceptable quality for the handles.

So here it was, the moment, the first test cut! I selected a nice piece of oak, stood it up in the end vice and....judder. All that effort and I've managed to come up with a saw that flippin' judders!!! Then it hit me, new saws need a run in period of slow feed rates and thinner workpieces, they are too sharp to begin with and that is why they grab at the timber. Switching to the front vice, I made a series of perpendicular cuts through the narrow section, every one getting progressively smoother than the last. Finally I gave the blade a coat of Shield Technology ProtecTool wax, including the teeth, and switched to a piece of english walnut. What a world of difference, the saw started well and continued to cut smoothly right down the cheek. Back to the oak, same thing again, and it was making much better progress through the timber than before.

A week or so later I am loving this saw more and more every time I use it, it just gets better and better! After correcting the set for my cutting style with a single stroke down the left side of the teeth with 3M 40 micron PSA lapping film it cuts absolutely square and true and we have developed a comfortable smooth working rhythm.

All in all, I'm extremely pleased with how these saws have worked out, and I hope that with them we will be able to fend off David's sad day for another generation.

Clifton Prices

Clifton Planes

Just a quick heads up that the new Clico pricelist is due out at the end of the month. They are normally pretty reasonable, just normal inflationary corrections, but if you want to grab a nice new Cliffie at the 2008/9 prices, now's the time!

I have put in an order to top up our stock at the old prices. I will show the new prices as soon as we get them, but then put everything on special at the old prices until we run out. This seems like the fairest way of doing it for all concerned.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Scary Sharp


We have had a lot of interest in our 3M scary sharp kits recently, mainly thanks to an article by Marc Fish in Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine and various referrals from alumni of the Barnsley Workshop.

For the benefit of those who would like to learn more about it, here is a pdf of the instructions that we send out with the kit. I wrote these back when we only offered the non PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) backed versions of the film, as soon as I update them I will upload the new version.

The PSA backing does make life a lot easier, it's like a heavy duty version of the stuff used on post it notes, so you just peel off the backing and stick it down rather than having to spray aerosol adhesive onto the film. Sticking it down is a one hit deal though, it will come off cleanly when you've finished with it, but it's worth taking your time to get it in the right spot when you apply it and roll it down onto the glass to avoid trapping any air bubbles.

I recently had the good fortune to meet up with Rob Stoakley, better known as woodbloke (check out his blog here) and demonstrate the system to him. Rob has had an interest in the scary sharpening for some time, along with a healthy dollop of caution. Given the number of 'revolutionary new must-have universal sharpening systems' that have been touted in recent years I don't blame him one bit. The only difference I can see with scary sharp is that it evolved naturally, no one seems to have invented it, it just happened. The lapping film was originally developed for polishing fibre optics, float glass was developed for making windows and Richard Kell designed his honing guides long before it became popular. All I have done is procure the best kit for doing it with and put it in a box.

Rob had tried scary sharp before but couldn't get on with it, but the moment that I pointed out to him that it works best if you touch the blade to the abrasive on the pull stroke, and then lift it to return to the start position, everything suddenly 'clicked'. After a few minutes he had the whole thing cracked and was starting to come up with his own modifications and solutions. I'll leave Rob to finish the story on his blog, that way you'll get it straight from the horses mouth.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Phew what a scorcher!

Today's flawless blue skies from horizon to horizon, along with a beautifully timed and completely unexpected delivery of a 4 pack of assorted Badger Ales from my neighbour (in return for what I thought was a fairly modest favour), have put me in a particularly good mood this evening. To celebrate I have decided knock 10% off all Shield Technology products and Ashley Iles Registered Firmer Chisels, until such time as I feel grumpy enough to reverse the decison.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Shiny Treats!

There is something deeply attractive about using tools that have been made with care and passion by highly skilled craftsmen in small workshops.

Richard Kell Adjustable Bevel

Each time you use them there is a subtle appreciation of the fact that this object was created with skill and judgement by a human being. They make you quietly receptive to the mindblowing concept of human skill and craftsmanship, which is precisely the right emotional plane to be on when you are working.

Richard Kell Centre Finder

Given the ongoing (and rapidly growing) popularity of Richard Kell's outstanding honing guides, I thought it was high time we started stocking some of his other products.

Richard Kell Deluxe Dovetail Marker

Richard's adjustable bevels, plate squares, centre finders and dovetail markers are all are carefully made in solid brass to a standard working tolerance of one thousandth of an inch.

Richard Kell Plate Square

The elegance and simplicity of Richard Kell's designs, combined with their functional accuracy make them a true pleasure to work with.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sharpening and Using English Backsaws

A couple of weeks ago I put together a set of guidelines on how to sharpen, care for and use English Backsaws. Sharpening is easy enough once you know how, but can be an onerous task the first time around, similarly people often have problems starting a cut, but with a little explanation the problem is easily solved. We now send out a paper copy of this with both our PAX and Atkinson Walker ranges of backsaws and backsaw kits.

For people who are not yet customers and those who have bought these products from us in the past but didn't receive a copy with their order, a pdf version is available here.

Speaking of backsaws, I have just finished carving some lambs tongues into the handles on the prototypes for the gorgeous new PAX 1776 heavy tenon saws, which will be available shortly. One final prototype has gone down to Mark Baker of Furniture and Cabinetmaking to be reviewed in a forthcoming round up of all the top tenon saws on the market. The other is on its way up to Sheffield to be used as the sample so that Christian can carve and sand the production ones to the same spec.

Peter Benson's detail selection carving tools were an absolute godsend for this job, so I've included some in the package going to Sheffield.

Prices for the new saws will be £125 each or £225 for a pair, including VAT and carriage.

Bessey Clamps Range Extended

Just finished adding another 9 lines to our range of Bessey clamps including:

Pipe ClampsPipe Clamp

Compatible with standard 3/4" steel gas pipe so you can make a heavy duty clamp as long or as short as you need. Although I am far from being a fan of the bearded one, there was a New Yankee Workshop show a few years back where he made a tablesaw fence using this type of clamp.

Vice ClampsVice Clamp

Portable Vices that can be attached to any surface up to 50mm thick. The jaws can be used with guide bars to keep the jaws square, or without for clamping oddly shaped objects. Ideal for site work.

Table ClampsTable Clamp

Designed for fixing KR body clamps to the worksurface, these dinky little clamps can also be used anywhere where an 8mm hole can be drilled. The obvious job that springs to mind is making forms and jigs for gluing up laminates or steam bent components, where you need a large number of inexpensive clamps that can be pre-arranged or slid into place after the workpiece has been initially secured to the form.

Wooden Klemmy ClampsWooden Clamp

Inexpensive wooden clamps, designed for protecting delicate, easily damaged workpieces. Ideal for restoration work, they are available in decent bar lengths of 40cm, 80cm and 100cm.

and the new longer Kliklamps

KliKlampThese tick all the right boxes, featherlight, powerful, controllable and now available in much more useful 30cm and 40cm bar lengths.

Having a brief surf around, all of these products are either not currently available in the UK yet or we are better on price than anyone currently offering them, so they should be quite polular!

Welcome to Matthew's Blog!

Hello, thanks for stopping by.

This is my new blog and gives me a little more space to burble on about woodworking tools and other related topics than our main website

I will be covering topics like how to use, care for and get the best from your tools and giving some extra background info on how our products are designed and made. I will also be offering sneak previews of new product ranges.

I hope it will be interesting and fun, please feel free to add your own comments.

All the best,