Ah for feck’s sakes…

I only just finished digging that sodding thing out!


And I’ve not been getting much done in there thanks to subzero temperatures and public transport making the work commute into anything up to a six-hour-a-day nightmare (yes, a foot of snow won’t slow down Canada, but Canada spends more on their snow clearing hardware and people than we spend on Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Spin Unit…). Mostly I’ve been putting together new tools for some things I’d like to try, namely stringing and carved arcading. So for the stringing, I already have the dead fancy radius cutter from lie nielson (probably the most bling tool I own), and a small perspex scrap to give it a pivot point when working on some of the usual designs:

But I haven’t got a straight line cutter because I figured I should be able to make one, they’re basically a marking gauge, see the lie nielson one:

Fancy, but basically just a marking gauge. So I ordered a spare blade from the lie nielson cutter to skip the whole metalworking bit because hell, learn one thing at a time. Then I laminated two scraps of white oak, cut and squared a stem from another scrap and chopped a mortice (and a rabbit on the base). Some test fitting, adding the blade in a little recess and…

Mind you, it doesn’t work. The mortice isn’t good enough so the beam isn’t at right angles to the fence, so the blade gets dragged along while skewed so you don’t get a nice thin cut line, you get a wider scratched mess. I think I’ll take out the beam, add a brass strip inlaid on it for a bearing surface and use the brass thumbscrews I have here as a lock. And I’ll remake the fence from a single thickness scrap piece of something; it’s too thick to cut a mortice accurately through (at least for me). Some guide blocks when morticing will probably help too. It’s not hard, but it does take a mite more care than I used on the first try.

Also, I’ll need to cut strips off the veneer to make the stringing, and I was finding my marking knife wasn’t up to it and neither was my heavier stanley boxcutter, both would be fine for a few inches and then wander off the line following the grain. So I got this:

Think pizza cutter. But with a tungsten carbide blade. It’s normally used for cutting cloth for quilting. Doesn’t get dragged off to either side by the grain as much as a normal knife that’s embedded in the grain would because with the wheel, the cutting surface is constantly coming out of the wood so the material hasn’t as solid a grip on the blade (which is precisely why we use these for pizzas and the like). Tested it already and it works like a charm. My veneer on the other hand, is too thin; I need to source better material, which I’ve had some pointers on from the UK forum.

And for cleaning out the stringing lines before gluing in the stringing, a dental pick is a pretty decent tool and dirt cheap on ebay. You get the oddest looks in the office when it’s delivered, mind you…

….but the looks you get when you order the syringes for putting glue in the stringing grooves surpass anything I’ve seen so far 😀

I also had to restock on glue and got a bunch of liquid hide glue in a sale on ebay so that should be all the glue I need for the next year or three (it’ll go off before I get through all of it I’m guessing). So I think I’m set right now for everything but the veneer for stringing; I’ll sort that out while I fix the straight line cutter and then start experimenting.

Meanwhile, Peter Follansbee did a nice blog writing up how he does carved arcading; I’d like to give this a go myself, it looks like fun:

It’s just damn pretty in walnut. And it looks terribly complex when finished, but like a lot of this period’s carving, it’s all geometric and done by leveraging the characteristics of tools rather than being some kind of sculpture that relies on twenty years of experience (which would be harder to try).

I do need to get one or two gouges that are larger than what I currently have so I got a nice three-quarter-inch one for a few euro off ebay again:

And between that and one that was a present from an old friend, had a go at the basic core elements to see if it was even possible (here in an oak scrap rather than walnut):

It’s somewhat easier than the v-tool work that I’ve been practicing (and not getting hugely better at, though having better sharpening kit is making a difference):

Something else to get back to, when I dig the shed out again…. this whole thing of letting the north pole melt and turning off the north atlantic current and ruining the climate is playing absolute hell with my shed time…

It’s not even for the birds!


So, there are a bunch of things I could say on this, primarily centered on the way that “Craft” is the latest fad in certain industries (looking at you, Silicon Valley) and how most people you hear using the word can be safely written off as asshats who think you should “follow your dream” (which is lovely but the bank still want their mortgage paid at the end of the month). I’ve read otherwise apparently sensible people talk about how it’s easy to “pursue your craft” and how you only need to have twenty thousand or so in the bank as insurance against most of the things that can go wrong; people talking about how it’s a shame that today’s consumerist world builds everything with machines (hey, I like working with hand tools as a hobby but it’s only suitable for mass production if you’re not in favour of human rights or people being able to live a decent life); and a small host of other things that would force a polite person to bite their tongue and go read something else.

But instead of that rant, just go read this. It’s one of the best, most romantic-bullshit-free bits of writing I’ve seen on the topic in a long time.

Craft by Alexander Langlands

And then if you want to get depressed, go read some of the older books on things like woodwork and see what the living conditions were like and how badly the industry treated workers who reached the end of their working lives through old age or accident.

“Craft” is a word with a lot of hidden nasty sharp bits. Use with care.


Very calm and quiet last night thanks to the snow (and funky lighting too from streetlights reflecting off the snowclouds)

Terribly pretty but that’s all due to thaw and melt in the next day or four and the stuff that’s right up against the shed door will melt and then run down the door, find nowhere to go because of the snow and may wind up flowing over the lip and into the shed (and they didn’t leave a corner uncut when making the shed – they never treated the floorboards for water, so that’d lead to trouble even if it didn’t destroy stuff sitting on the floor in there).
So this morning….

Right. Shouldn’t be too bad…

Jaysus. Okay, that sucked. I remember this from when I used to grow vegetables thirty years ago – every spring, you dig up the garden and it’s the only time you use the shovel a lot in the year so your muscles never get used to it. Ow. But!

All clear. About 18″ of snow at the deepest point up against the wall (maybe three feet over in the corner on the far right out of frame). And no water damage inside, happily.

Even the robin’s looking happier now.

2.2C in the shed today. Might give it another day or so before going back out there again. Cold fingers and edged tools are a bad mix… plus I need to leave the kitchen door open for the power to the shed, and that’s divorce territory you’re talking in this weather.

Stochastic Geometry is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache

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