Friday 31 December 2010

Christmas Presents

The one advantage of the downtime I've had meant that I could finish all the presents for Christmas.
These ranged from silly little snowmen tree decorations for the ladies in my life:
To a cold frame for my mum (I forgot to take a picture of it finished):
To a bowl from a Alder burr for my wife using a tree my brother cut down 6 years ago on the farm (quite pleased with this as its my first bowl and quite tough wood):
To a carving gouge with a new handle (and a little round mallet to go with it - no picture again) for my brother:
I've also got 2 raised vegetable beds to make for the mothering law but it's not really the right time of year for that. I hope people don't mind homemade gifts

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Down time

Well the work I had booked in for this week was all outside, so that means no work this week and no money. The joys of being self employed.
[Workshop in the snow]
If I can get to the timber yard tomorrow then I have a paying job I can do (a sapele gate) but other than that I'm trapped at home.
So time to make the most of my situation I managed to get to the builders merchants today and buy lots of 3x2 and 4x2 to try and organise my workshop a little more. The plan is to build a small bench for the bench mounted sander I've just brought, and a larger one to site my mitre saw wit a place to roll my planner out of the way.
I've made the first bench today sand turned an area like this:
Into this:
My work benches are all made fairly easily using halving joints glued and screwed together, they should last a few years and if we ever get a bigger place I can take them with me.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

What goes on behind those walls?

Sometimes the best sign of a good tradesman is the fact that you can't see he's been there.

That was the case the week before last, as we were battening out an old brick wall. In the end all you could see was a perfectly plumb plywood wall but behind that there were all the timber grounds to straighten it out, full of wedges and packers, once its tiled there will be no clue a carpenter was ever there.
The shower floor will be another example of this. as we were raising the floor up 6inches anyway the customer decided that they didn't want a standard type shower tray. Instead they wanted one that was sunk into the floor. This meant positioning the trap to the shower and then making the floor fall in four directions into it, bit of a test of my geometry skills! It will then be tanked before the tiles are laid.

I've also been doing plenty of wood turning this week (due to the fact that we can't leave the village due to snow) but most of it is presents so I can't put them on here just yet!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

A sad tradesman

The village carpenter is easily one of my favorite books. It's a book that makes me long to be born in a different time where craftmanship was appreciated and skill was hard earned. I love to re read parts of this book and it really inspires me to try harder in my trade.
The reason I mention this book is because something minor happened that reminded me of it on site today. There is a lovely sad bit in the book where Walter Rose describes how he lent his saw to labourer to cut wood and he later found it broken, when he talks about this saw you can feel how much this misuse hurt him.
Well today I lent a labour a chisel - it will now have to be re-ground (big chunk missing). This doesn't bother me too much, but the misuse and treatment of the tool does, I hate lending my tools to people but when I do I hope they treat them with the same respect that I have for them, normally they don't!
This coupled with the fact that I've been putting UPVC fascia on (in the rain) to a new extension where the brick work isn't even anywhere near level leaves me with little doubt about where the British builder stereotype comes from.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Trying to match architrave

Matching old architraves can be a pain. Friday was my last day on working on the old rectory until next year and one of the final jobs I did was to make up some architrave.
I did this by ripping down some MDF and putting a bead on it with my little router and fixing this to the frame. I then went to fix on some normal architrave on top of this but it looked far to big, so it was back outside in the cold to rip down the architrave until it was the same size as the other. All glued and nailed it matches in well (I also put in the blocks at the bottom of the architrave like the rest of the house), just needs a coat of MDF sealer and a lick of paint.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Stay Sharp

I'm obsessive about keeping tools sharp and I hate to see people using tools that aren't. That's why yesterday I had to take my current work mates chisels home and sharpen them for him.
He'd brought them new and used them straight out of the box, wrongly assuming that they were sharp from new, a mistake I've seen a lot of people make (in fact I'm sure I thought it at some point).
[Sharpening using an oil stone on my trusty saw horse]
Honing is what gives a single edge tool its sharpness
On site I carry an oil stone to hone a quick edge onto my chisels and plane irons (one day I'll get a diamond stone but for now this does a great job), back at the workshop I use my secret weapon - a reverse running grinder with a felt wheel (the green one on the right hand side in the photo below). This sharpens blades in seconds to a razor edge whilst hardly taking any metal off the tool, it's great for curved tools like gouges - something that most people struggle with otherwise.
[My "sharpening staion" in my workshop]
The grinder on the left (the white one where the wheel needs dressing) is used if the tool needs regrinding (if its been honed too many times and started to "nose over" or if I've hit a nail and taken a chunk out of it), fitted with a number of jigs this enables me to sharpen pretty much everything I've got from woodturning chisels to plane irons.
What systems do other people use? I'd love to hear about them.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Fixing handrail

The house We've been working in also runs as a B&B. The trouble is guests are a little heavy handed with the handrail on the stairs, banging bags on them as they walk up.

The handrail itself had become really lose and their were 6 spindles missing at the bottom and quite a few loose ones on the way up. Time to get out the glue!
There were some spare spindles I could use from another handrail that had been taken down previously. I first had to clean out the filler from all the mortice's and then cut each spindle individually with a little tenon on the end to provide a good Strong fit. I glued and screwed the tops to the handrail after cutting the mitre to suit. In the end it firmed up the whole handrail and the new spindles matched in pretty well, a quick polish and no one will no I've been there!
I've been asked to come back next year to finish off another handrail that has been altered, but this will be a bigger job involving turning a new newel post and altering steps, but one I'm looking forward to!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Door hanging

It's funny how the jobs people are really pleased with are sometimes your bread and butter work like hanging doors.

Yesterday I hung a door in the opening I'd cut through a brick wall the week before. The customer was really pleased with the result, and so was I as we'd managed to install lintels without damaging the plaster or wall paper on the other side - not an easy task.
The door itself was reclaimed so I had to make up the frame from scratch to suit it (the wall was also an odd thickness). Then I wedged the lining to suit the door.

There is always a bit of messing around when hanging an old door (packing out hinges, filling old holes) but its worth spending the extra time as they look good when they're done and in keeping with the property. Next week I've got to make up some architrave from scratch to match whats in the rest of the property
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