The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for March, 2021

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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