Thursday, 31 March 2011
We have recently been paying a bit of long overdue attention to the Rasps and Files section of the site.
We have brought in a new range of Continental rasps - a little dearer than the old ones admittedly, but really, really beautifully made in the traditional manner and I'm confident that they still represent excellent value for money. I am going out on a limb regarding the cleaning of rasps, some say that they should only be cleaned with a nail brush but I have never found this gets them sufficiently clean. Given that wood debris is likely attract and hold moisture against the surface and therefore promote corrosion (far more dangerous to carbon steel than the mechanical abrasion of a file card) we are recommending that you use something a bit more aggressive and get them properly clean. We are also offering a resharpening service on the new ones (as long as it hasn't been abused a rasp can typically be resharpened a couple of times) so if you pop them in the post to us with a couple of pounds per tool to cover return postage we will sharpen them, passivate them and send them back to you.
We have simplified matters somewhat by only offering one type of handle, but it is without any doubt the most comfortably shaped file handle I have ever used. Turned from walnut with a brass ferrule it is based on an old design from the turn of the last century. Judging from the feedback we have had so far they are going to be very popular indeed.
Our range of Bahco files have also received a little attention, again the new walnut handles and we are gradually introducing a wider range of shapes, sizes and cuts. One top tip that was sent in to us was to break in a new file by using it very gently on a piece of brass to ease any high teeth (we are talking fractions of microns here) into line with the others before bringing the tool to bear on ferrous metals. Apparrently this simple step will greatly extend the usable life of the file. I haven't tried it on a saw sharpening file yet, but the next time I start a new one I'll definitely give it a go.
Up to now we have concentrated on relatively coarse files as these are the ones that tend to work best with wood. However we are gradually introducing more metalworking files for specific jobs, files for preparing cabinet scrapers, opening the mouths of planes and filing knife backs for example. It will be a gradual process of defining the best tool for each job and then adding them to the range, so if anyone has any particular favourite cuts or shapes please do let me know.
My personal favourite remains the Bahco Oberg cut file (if you only have one file in your workshop this one should be it) halfway between a float and file it cuts quickly, can be used on anything from wood to hardened steel and yet produces a supremely smooth finish, a truly remarkable tool.
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Congratulations to Marc Fish for winning the 2011 Claxton Stevens Prize with his exquisite and brilliant L'Orchidée desk.
This highly prestigious annual award is given for the best piece of guildmark winning furniture from the preceding 12 months, it is the furniture equivalent of the Top-Gun Trophy.
The L'Orchidée desk is particularly important because it is simultaneously fresh and contemporary and yet unmistakably Art Nouveau inspired. The elegant sweep of the aluminium legs, invite you to the desk in much the same way as a ballroom dancer would invite his partner to the dancefloor; slightly bowed, arm extended with one toe pointing outwards.
The drawers inside the desk are crisply dovetailed from aluminium and walnut. The use of Aluminium and the shape of the tambour invoke the beginnings of speed and streamlining. Yet here we are a century on, in a streamlined high-speed future beyond their wildest dreams, still unable to detach ourselves from the classical beauty of highly figured English Walnut.
Marc has broken new ground by using a veneered tambour to create a seamless solid surface that behaves like fabric. Historically this is not Art Nouveau because it has never been done before, but stylistically it is a perfect fit.
Anyone can make a piece of 'Art Nouveau style' furniture that is no more than a copy of something old. What Marc is doing here is different, he is not copying Art Nouveau, he is harnessing it and using it as a stylistic tool to push new boundaries. If others are able to follow his lead, this piece could very well be one that defines furniture style for the next ten to fifteen years.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
No, not Amelie Honore, the missus wouldn't let me play with that in the shed!
I've had this knife blank knocking about for ages and have got as far as cutting out the scale blanks in various materials but always changed my mind.
Anyhow, the tuit finally rolled around and I decided to clad it in some lovely translucent French cowhorn.
I cut and filed the bases as accurately as possible to give a neat fit against the bolsters and ensure that the handle would all fit within the scale blanks. A quick trim around with a Jewellers saw brought everything to within a few mm.
I decided to conceal the pins within the scales, giving the strength benefit but still retaining a cleaner look. The holes were drilled to half the thickness of the scales using the tang as a guide.
After glue up it was on to the rasps to refine and develop the shape.
Then a fair bit of coarse sanding to smooth out the transitions and fine tune the shape.
Before moving on to finer papers and finally mops and compound.
Off with the tape, a quick clean up and it's job done. I'm not sure why the bolster looks so scratched, it's not perfect but it's nowhere near as bad as it looks. Apart from being a bit smelly at the rasping stage the horn was a lovely material to work with. Now that it's all polished up you can just make out the brass pins through the handle scales.