The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Not Worth Losing Your Head Over…

Posted by Exile on April 26, 2021

It was a youngster weekend again.

My grandson was here for his fortnightly stay with the old ‘uns. He enjoys these weekends, no pressure, all fun and my wife spoils him rotten. His birthday is on the 1st of January and, due to things way beyond our control, we didn’t get him a birthday present. It was promised and not forgotten. He wanted a remote controlled “Mario” go kart. Better late than never, we got him one and he was given it on arrival at our home. Some assembly required. The battery pack has to be charged and fitted and batteries for the controller need to be loaded into the back. No problem and quicky done.


MarioThe kart wouldn’t turn to the left. It went in a straight line and to the right but refused to go the other way. I told him to read the instruction booklet but what ten year old ever did that? So I did. I had to. The kart needs to be trimmed to the controller. One does this by pressing the “trim” button and getting the thing to run straight. Then switch “trim” off and try again. That worked. Hosanna! Jubilation! So off to the street outside and see what this thing can do. It does about 20 kph. That’s 12 mph in old money.

I told the lad to take it easy until he had some idea of the capabilities of the kart. Steering and speed and so on. Again, what ten year old boy does that?
Nope. not mine. It was full speed ahead and no holds barred.
This was great fun for a while but then the inevitable happened. He ran it at full speed into the kerbstone. The kart stopped but Mario’s head continued and bounced across the pavement, disappearing into the hedge.

I thought, he’ll be upset now. He’ll scream and shout and bawl. The world will end for him right here. I expected a right old fuss.

Not a bit of it.

He looked at me with calm and control written all over his little face. “You can glue that back on, Grandad.” he said. Infinite trust. Absolute belief in what he said. I was quite taken aback.
I reckon we can, I said and retrieved Mario’s head from the hedge.

Off to the shed then. This could also be a learning moment for him. Two part epoxy should be on everyone’s list of stuff to have lying around. I explained what two part epoxy is, a resin and a hardener. Mix in equal amounts. He was very attentive, but then again, he always is in the shed. We mixed it, found a little stick to spread it with and set Mario back together again. Leave it until the morning, I said.

It worked. Mario is as good as new and the lad is driving it happily and, perhaps, a little more carefully  once again.

One can’t even see the repair.

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As Time Goes By..

Posted by Exile on April 23, 2021

…so says the old song..

A year ago I bought a watch for my dear wife. Not just any old watch, no, she wanted a Tag Heuer Aqua with mother of pearl and other blingy bits like gold and a diamond. I found one, bought it and wept at the sight of my greatly reduced wallet. She loves it and has worn it every day since she got it.
The time has come for a service of this expensive piece. We have a service agreement, the first two are free and they are annual. Corona has hindered us in getting in on time but they were very understanding at the jewellers and “no problem, Sir” was the order of the day. So far so good.

Seiko Presage automatic_InPixioFourteen years ago, I bought my own watch there too. A Seiko, fully automatic, generator and batteri driven. It has served me very well. It is also in need of a service. The weight that drives the works has become noisy and the second hand moves in a less than ideal manner. I delivered it at the same time and, again, no problem. They will ring and give me a price. All is well.

Now neither my wife or I have a watch at present. (Not entirely true because I have a few cheap ones for daily use in the garden and the shed, but not, well, nice.)

Then this thing caught my eye as I was leaving the shop. As a secondary accoutrement it will serve my purposes. It will (hopefully) not be a replacement for my grand Seiko but one does need to consider one’s appearance.

Again a Seiko, automatic, from the “Presage” series. Not terribly expensive but elegant enough and it isn’t too heavy.

So I bought the thing.

The dear wife says it’s nice. Thank heavens….

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Thieving Mouse..

Posted by Exile on April 18, 2021

I thought I was feeding a hedgehog. We have one or two that come round, one spent the winter here in another house. This house was set up as a feeding station and resting place for itinerant hedgies. Something was taking the food so I decided to set up the trail camera and catch the hedgie on film. Turns out, it isn’t a hedgie.. The little mouse was in and out several times during the night. Always took the same route in and out. I think it may be a nesting female gathering food for her brood. Oh well, they are a part of nature too and as long as she stays outside of the house then I’m OK with it.
Video here:

https://youtu.be/YCAV68lymPQ

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The Tool Chest. Part 3.

Posted by Exile on April 14, 2021

Nearly there….

IMG_0648_InPixioI figured out how to put the lid together. Bless my grandson for his input. I cut the four pieces to length and fixed the construction with dovetails. The flat lid is glued and dowelled to this box like affair and the whole thing sits nicely on the chest. I dropped the hinges into the carcass and allowed myself to screw them directly to the underside edge of the lid wall. The lid sits flush with the carcass over the hinges. I set the lock piece into the opposite side and the whole thing closes and locks with a padlock. A lot of thought and work went into that one piece but I am more than pleased with the “pop up” storage space the lid now creates. It will give me space for all the skinny things like marking knives, pencils, marking gauges, try squares, screwdrivers, bits and such other things. Those decisions will have to wait though. Fitting comes later..

IMG_0649_InPixioIn order to keep the lid from tipping backwards, I fitted a window lock to limit the travel. I had to modify it a little as it really needs two screws to hold the one end. Had I used two screws it wouldn’t be able to swivel as is required. One screw then, and it rotates on that perfectly. It also gives me a variable opening height to the lid if I so need it. Positioning it was a bit of a chore but it got done. I think it will need wheels… damn thing is solid and heavy. But that was the point in the first place. It should be so.

IMG_0647_InPixioFor the moment, I’m done building the chest. I need to find out what kind of finish I will give it but I’m experimenting with a clear varnish which is meant for maritime use. It gives a warm colour to the wood, yellowing it slightly and leaves a glass finish.
I have a lot of sanding to do and that will give me time to think.

As a final clou, I printed a small label to stick inside the chest. It says, simply; “Hand made by (me). April 2021.”

I like to think that this tool chest will outlive me, so I am leaving something for posterity!

I enjoyed building this thing. I enjoyed the challenge, the work and the sense of achievement that it brought. I learned a lot from it. Let’s hope I get some good use from it.

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The Tool Chest. Part 2

Posted by Exile on April 11, 2021

IMG_0627_InPixio

This is getting to be a saga…

I worked out how to fix the peg that holds the drawer shut. It wasn’t difficult once I’d had a good think and the solution is elegant enough. The front of the drawer was given a rebate to accomodate the peg and then screwed and glued to the lower front section from inside. Fashioning the peg was easy enough and with a polish with some besswax it dropped nicely into position. See my pictures on the right.. The peg drops through the floor of the upper tier and enters the hole in the drawer front.

The drawer got a quick rub all over with wax too, so that slides nicely back and forth in it’s housing in the bottom tier.

So, on to the lid… which quickly spun out of hand…

IMG_0628_InPixioProgress had slowed a bit due to my grandson who comes to stay every other weekend. He enjoys being in the shed with me, especially if I let him get involved with whatever it is I’m doing. He looked over this project with a critical eye and we dicussed how I should make the lid. I was determined to have a bread board joint on each side to hold the thing flat and I explained how that would work. He seemed impressed at my ambitious solution and suggested I let the lid fall into the box. No, I said, the lid has to close the chest and ride over all the edges. Well, he said, why not just screw a few batons under the lid all the way round instead of the complicated bread board thing?

The idea lamp went on. The lad doesn’t know how inspiring he can be. I’ve decided to let the lid construction become a box in itself, which will give me extra space to hold things like chisels, marking gauges, screwdrivers, pencils, and other long skinny stuff. It might give me a problem with the hings and other hardware but I’ll figure something out…
Quite how that will work out, I have no idea.

But it’s going to get done.. somehow!

IMG_0637For now, I’ve started on the lid. 4 boards with a 40mm wide insert to allow the thing to be broad enough to reach from front to back. Cut to length and glued up it didn’t need much truing up. I ripped a board lengthwise to create the strip which is placed centrally in the lid. Then I ripped another to make the bread board ends.  It actually looks good. I marked out for the tenons to be reduced to fit the ends and cut the grooves to fit. All I need to do now is final mortis and tenoning to get a good fit.
I think I’ll have that done by tomorrow evening. Never having attempted anything like this before, I’m taking it very slowly. We’ll see how it goes…

Progress so far, the carcass is done. The drawer is fitted. The locking mechanism is in place and works. And here is a final picture documenting the beginnings of the end joints.

I’m enjoying this….

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The Tool Chest

Posted by Exile on April 9, 2021

Part 1.

Having collected a heap of tools I decided to make a chest to hold them all. After a year of trial and error and building a few small things like hedgehog houses and bird boxes I needed to set myself a real project that would be of benefit to me. I had no idea where to start so I had to sit down and think for a long while. Setting pencil to paper helped to fasten my thinking and the plan slowly grew.
I decided to make a two tier chest. An upper storage area and a drawer in the bottom. The side walls would be dovetailed to the bottom of the carcass but otherwise screwed and glued on all sides. The drawer will be held shut by a peg internally, which can only be removed once the lid is open. The lid will lock with a padlock.

IMG_0616_InPixioI worked out how much material I needed and then it was off to the builders merchant to stock up. Planks, glue, screws, hinges, a lock thingy for a padlock and a few other bits like a groove cutter for my router.
Getting it all in the shed was a chore because it can’t really hold planks at 3.6 meters in length so I had to reduce them before I could get them in. It was cold outside at the time… Saw, shiver, saw some more.
Finally all indoors, I got cracking and cut all the pieces I needed to build the carcass.

I cut all the pieces I needed to length and lined them up in piles of long sides, short sides, bottom and lid. I may not be the worlds best chippy but I can organise the workplace. The short sides will be vertically positioned, the long sides horizontally. So I started with the most demanding bit and cut dovetails and dados to hold the internal floor of the upper compartment into the side walls. The bottom was cut for dovetails and the thing started to come together.

It took me a days work, but by the end of that day I had the short sides and bottom assembled and I was gluing up the long sides.

Day two had me fitting the back wall of the carcass. This immediately squared the whole construction up and despite a few minor alignment problems, it all started to look like a tool chest in the making.  I fitted and fettled the internal floor and then needed to take a break to figure out just how I should proceed. I needed to create the space in the internal floor to get the locking peg in and work out how the drawer should be formed to accomodate the peg. So it was back to the drawing board before proceeding with the front wall and the drawer section.

IMG_0622_InPixioThe internal floor would be further supported by strategically placed blocks glued to the inside of the long sides. So I needed to fix that too..
I ended up cutting a recess to allow the peg to penetrate the internal floor and then screwed the top section of the front side into place. It all fitted nicely. I glued the support blocks into place and then turned my attention to the drawer. I don’t want all the fancy bells and whistles so this is just a basic box to fill the space. I fashioned it out of cross ply and planking and it all went in very nicely, thank you very much. The front of the box drawer is screwed to the lower section of the front side from the inside. Once the drawer is closed and locked there is no way to get into it without removing the peg.

I’m far from finished but I won’t get much more done until next week. Grandson is on his way for the weekend…  Anyway, here’s a picture of what I have achieved up until the time of writing this account of the state of battle. I have not done myself any real damage but I did nick my finger with a very sharp chisel. One learns by one’s mistakes..!!

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Smooth…

Posted by Exile on March 31, 2021

.. as a baby’s bottom.

I’ve made some progress in my efforts to master the art of woodworking. I have also tried to pass some of that acquired knowledge on to my now ten year old grandson. We enjoy messing about in the shed together but he needs to learn stuff too. Things that he won’t learn at school.
He has inherited a couple of tools from me and now I’m going to give him one of my planes to put in his toolbox. Which means I need to get a replacement.
As I get better I feel the need to get better tools. I wanted to upgrade my tool kit anyway so this is killing two birds with one stone. A new plane then, of a better quality that the present one. The one I’ll give away does the job but why shouldn’t I have nice tools to work with? And one day, all my tools will go to my grandson anyway. So let’s get something good.

There are many makes out there. Some of them ridiculously priced. I have no need for a Veritas or Lie-Nielsen plane. The prices are high, as is the quality of them but there are alternatives if one looks hard enough. Similar quality but slightly less pricey. I’ve found a European supplier. I won’t buy Chinese shite. Dictum. From Germany. I have a block plane from them. Very good it is too. Open sided, full width blade and it is terrific for things like tenons. One can plane right in to the corners. They do make a nice a nice no.4 smoothing plane too. I know this because I just bought one. It is of the “Bedrock” persuasion, made famous by Stanley back in the day when they produced high quality tools instead of the mass produced, probably Chinese, rubbish that they do now. It is a thing of beauty and has some weight to the body. Straight out of the box, the sole is flat, the blade is sharp, but I honed it anyway, and the finish is very good. Solid wooden handles and all very well engineered. This thing feels good in the hand and performs like a woodworker’s dream. I know because I just tried it. Couldn’t wait to show it some wood.

So now I have what I needed. A large low angle no.62 jack plane from Axminster, a no.4 smoothing plane from Dictum and a block plane from Dictum. All high quality and a pleasure to use.

Bring on the next little project.

Block plane

No. 4 Smoothing plane
Axminster No. 62 Jack plane

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Birdy Nam-nam

Posted by Exile on March 14, 2021

Probably the one thing that has kept me sane during the last year is having my Grandson to stay every other weekend. I think he enjoys the break and I’m sure his mother does. I do try to entertain him as much as possible but it can be hard when one can’t really get out to any form of communal gathering or museum or any other sort of attraction.  Luckily, I do have the shed and a heap of tools. I made a bird house last week whilst trying to break the eternal boredom of lockdown and thought the lad might be interested to try. He enjoys being in the shed anyway, so why not? I was a bit short on materials after my own efforts but there is a bit of construction work going on just up the road. There’s also a huge dumpster standing there, so I went diving. I found all sorts of material there including some half inch plywood. Quite a lot of it actually and, knowing the price of these things, I collected all the cast off pieces I could get into the car. Problem solved. For free!

OK, so it’s off to the shed and the workbench. We made a quick drawing of what we were going to produce and set some relevant dimensions. There are places where one can go and get plans for this sort of thing and we went to the RSPB website. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds provides a plethora of information and even  has a scaling diagram for particular species. We have sparrows and great tits around his home so we went for that. The crucial dimensions are the inside base area and entry hole. Find those and you’re good to go. Other birds will also use the house if they are of the same size. You never know quite what will move in… 

We sawed. And we measured and we planed and we drilled holes. Cutting and preparing all the pieces is a lot of fun but it’s also a lot of work for a ten year old. I let him use the bandsaw and the drill press. I also promised him he could use the nail gun and the compressor to drive it. I couldn’t see the lad for ear defenders and safety goggles… He wanted a perch on the front but not being equipped with round stock I suggested we went out and found a stick in the hedge and use that. Good idea, he said. Keep it natural Grandad. So we did that too. 

Having all the pieces made up and cut to size we began assembly. This involved glue and the nail gun. Great fun.  The glue is waterproof and made for outdoor use. It’s even environmentally sound and fit for household use in kitchen utensils, so it won’t hurt the birds. The front side was designed to swing up and out for cleaning purposes. We cut nails to size to act as hinge pins and two more to use as locking pins to hold the flap closed. The perch got mounted on the front under the entry hole and soon it was all done. Well, almost. It all gets a rub down with sandpaper too and we checked the whole thing for splinters. There were none.

The final chapter on this will be done tomorrow when he gets home again. He’ll have to hang it up. Hopefully, he’ll have some tenants soon. He deserves it after all the work he put into it. Well done lad. Well done indeed.

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Give us the tools…

Posted by Exile on October 17, 2020

..And we’ll do the job.

The job today was removing a couple of trees from my hedge in front of the house. I had help. My grandson, Mikkel, 9 years old.
See, I believe you have to teach them more than just their ABC, so instead of just having him watch me cut the whole lot down, I gave him a 12 inch electric chain saw and a little instruction in its use. I showed him how to cut vertically and horizontally and then gave him charge of the means of destruction. He took to it like a duck to water. I had him cut all the obstruction away from the main trunk of the first tree and he went at it like a trojan. Wood chips and sawdust flying all around him. I kept a wary eye on him, stopped him if it got anywhere near dangerous and was never more than a few feet away from him. He worked at it for ten or fifteen minutes and the job was done. I tackled the main trunk and we were soon done with the first felling.

The second tree was buried a bit deeper in the hedge, Not easy to get to. Being a bit diplomatic about it, I asked the youngster if I could have a go at getting this one down? “Yes.” he said and so I did.

DSCN0011We dragged the debris into the garden and then went for a cup of tea, or in his case, a big bottle of orangeade. Refreshed and ready again we returned to the garden. We were going to have to transport most of this wood to the recycling centre. The smaller stuff would go through the wood chipper and on to my compost heap. We set about breaking the branches and trunks into manageable pieces. More sawing then, which pleased the lad no end. I held the branches, he cut them up. He was getting more confident now and the work went quickly. Here’s a picture of him doing just that… and yes, he is using that saw like a pro.

Having finished with that, we stretched a tarpaulin out in the boot of the car and loaded the logs and other large bits into it. Then it was off to the dump. Twice done and that was over. All we had left now was the thinner branches and twigs which would be milled to bits in the wood chipper. So far so good. More tea and orangeade. I smoked a cigarette too, but Mikkel didn’t want one…

My old wood chipper has served me well over the last 20 years. I have been having trouble with it lately but I reckoned it would still be up to the job. Having plugged it in, it refused to start and despite my inspection and attempts at repair, it wouldn’t run. To quote the famous Star Trek “Bones”, it’s dead Jim. I pronounced it so at 15:00 hrs.
Mikkel looked a bit disappointed. His face was clouded by concern and consternation. “Can you afford a new one Grandad?”, he asked. “I might, son. We’d better go and see if we can find one locally on the internet.”

We did. Several, in fact. We read the descriptions of three or four and compared prices and availabiltiy. We decided on the one nearest to us and so off we went to the hardware store. Not the biggest and probably not the best, but it was easily affordable and big enough to suit my needs. The lad doesn’t know that I have a reserve of what I call “silly money” which allows me to buy what I need, or want, in that order. He knows I’m on a pension!

We brought the thing home and got it assembled. He helped. Eager to get it going. Which it soon was. Mikkel calls these things “blenders”, which tickles my funny bone no end. And so he went at it again, feeding long Elderberry branches into the top of the machine and laughing at the resulting noise and effect. It took several emptyings and my compost heap grew considerably in the run of the next hour.
Finally it was all done.

We cleaned up, cleaned the chain saw, drained the oil and put it away. The new chipper went into the woodshed, where the old one had lived. All the hand tools were returned to the shed and by then it was getting dark. The sweeping up will have to wait. As the lad said, if it wasn’t for the old wood chipper breaking down, we would have been finished with it all.


He’s coming along nicely.

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Who are you?

Posted by Exile on June 11, 2020

Have you ever wondered about the reply you get to that question? Or, indeed, about the answer you give?
Ask people this and they will generally reply by telling you their name and, almost invariably, their occupation. I have never allowed what I do to become who I am, so I rarely mention it. I don’t care what you do. I ask who you are.  Your occupation is of little or no interest to me.

These days people are completely consumed by the apparent need to identify themselves as something instead of being more involved with, or aware of, who they are. They are vegan, gay, black, brown, white, trans-sexual,  muslim, christian, republican, democrat, socialist, atheist or whatever.

None of that interests me either.  You were born with your skin colour. That can’t be changed. So what? It isn’t relevant to who you are. Religion? Believe what you like. I don’t care. What you eat is none of my business either. Your sexual orientation is your business. I don’t need or want to know. How you vote is between you and the ballot box. It makes little difference to me.
We are, each and all, a complicated mix of all these things. They represent markers in our way of life, not the person we are.

So, who am I?
I am father to my daughter and grandfather to my grandson. I am husband to my wife. I am friend to my friends. I live by a few simple rules. I try not to directly offend anyone and I expect the same respect from them. I try to help those who are less fortunate than I, but I cannot save the entire world, so I won’t try. I believe one should attempt, at least, to look after oneself.  Charities won’t help but simple charity can. Live and let live is my policy. My father once told me that life is best tackled by valuing three things. “Be honest, fair and reasonable, son.” He said. I try to live by that. It was good advice. Treat me with respect and I will return the favour.  Behave properly around me and I will also behave properly.

My sexual preferences, diet, beliefs and political orientation are none of your business.
My skin colour, gender and nationality was not a choice  I was allowed to make, nor was it yours. I believe one cannot help being what one is, but one can decide who one is and how one behaves.

I am aware of the things I value and the things I believe to be right, or wrong. I am aware of the choices I made in becoming who I am at the moment.
Therefore, all these things are a part of me. I cannot be just one thing or identify myself as a single part of who I am. Doing so would show a great lack of respect for myself.

To those who identify themselves as being the one thing, be it a colour, sex, occupation, by political orientation, diet or religion, or anything else, I have only one thing to say:

I identify you immediately as being thoughtless at best and, probably, stupid.

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