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Thursday, 27 November 2014

DVD Review: The Secret Mitre Dovetail - David Charlesworth

I must preface this review by saying that I have watched David's new DVD once, from beginning to end; but this is not how I prefer to enjoy them. A Charlesworth DVD should be savoured slowly, a little at a time, interspersed with visits to the workshop to try the techniques for yourself and reinforce your understanding of them.

The first word that springs to mind after watching is richness - The DVD for its richness of content, and the man for his richness of experience and his well practiced ability to share such deep knowledge efficiently. This effortlessly smooth production has been a lifetime in the making - savour it, give your brain time to absorb the finer subtleties and nuances.

Like most of us, I have several woodworking mentors and admire them for different things, for example I find Tom Fidgen's working rhythm particularly graceful and Mark Fish's creative vision awe inspiring.

For me the thing that marks David out as a teacher and a woodworker is his application of academic rigour to the process of 'making as perfectly as possible'. He explains the thought process behind his approach to each task, then demonstrates it, explaining clearly what you should be looking out for at each step.

There is also a humility that is a characteristic common to both good craftsmen and good academics, David is laying his course of bricks in the cathedral of knowledge that is the craft, with openness about his own strengths and weaknesses and full accreditation to those who laid the previous courses - Robert Wearing, Alan Peters, Ernest Joyce et al.

With very few exceptions the filming and editing are of BBC documentary quality throughout the 2-3/4 hour run time, the DVD is conveniently edited into chapters so you can use it as a reference text.

Nominally the DVD is about cutting a secret mitre dovetail, but if that is all that you glean from it you have missed about 90%. All of the techniques demonstrated have much broader application and along with their entourage of analytical thought processes, will enrich your woodworking enormously.

The DVD costs £29.95 and is available directly from David's website here: The Secret Mitre Dovetail - David Charlesworth

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Clifton Planes

Click images to enlarge

OK, I admit it, I was somewhat surprised when Thomas Flinn & Co  took over ownership of Clifton last month and immediately replaced the classic British racing green colour with graphite grey.

From a future historians perspective it will certainly provide a clear demarcation of which planes were made on whose watch, but surely, Clifton without green.....?

I have had a long affinity with Clifton planes, they were one of the first brands that we stocked and I have visited the factory and chatted with the guys that make them, written magazine articles about their manufacturing methods and so on.

I also have a long standing relationship with Thomas Flinn & Co, who manufacture our Pax saws and (coming soon) Dorchester saws. They too are a highly professional outfit with an unquestionable passion for Sheffield toolmaking, so I made the decision to reserve judgment until I had the opportunity to physically hold the product in my own hands.

That day has come, so it's time to put my beloved original 2001 No.6 alongside its 2014 descendant and draw some conclusions.

The first thing I noticed was that the lettering is much more visible on the new lighter colour, the surface is considerably smoother and it is clear that they have taken expert advice and invested in a premium quality finish.

But what of the colour choice itself?

For me the green was reminiscent of 1920's vintage Bentleys, soaring around the banks of brooklands with a screaming supercharger hanging out at the front, good old British engineering giving all comers a proper thrashing!

The graphite strips all of that away, it is utilitarian, industrial, almost naked, really beautifully done but devoid of any emotional message at all.

At the same time though, that very nakedness forces you to look beyond distractions like colour schemes or suggestive marketing and appreciate the tool for what it actually is - modern British engineering - still giving all comers a proper thrashing!

Personally, I'm a convert, and my enthusiasm for the new colour scheme is growing by the minute, the graphite colour brings the product range up to date but in a subtle, refined way that accentuates their world renowned quality.

Rumour has it that there are some very interesting goodies in the pipeline from Clifton, but it would be a bit premature to comment on those just yet...

The first Graphite Cliffies are now on sale, the remaining green ones are available at specially discounted prices in order to help us achieve a nice efficient switchover. As soon as we have a complete set of graphite ones we will update the listings with new photographs, pricing etc, but in the meantime please assume that non-discounted ones will be supplied in graphite.