Tuesday 20 December 2011

Moving House

Well today we signed on the dotted line, so hopefully I wont jinks it by saying that we're moving house!

We've managed to buy a smallholding of five acres with the beautiful backdrop of the Malvern hills. This is something I've always dreamed of and maybe we're mad to do it but it means we're be able to live a life that's much more self reliant, growing more of our own meat and vegetables, have space for children (in the not so distant future) to run around in and the space for me to build a large workshop and develop my business.

Where we live now has been a great home to us but I've always craved more space as I was brought up on a farm. I've built a lovely workshop but its size enables me to have only one project on the go at a time and I have to lug my tools up and down the garden to the van as its at the far end of the garden.

[Picture of my current workshop]

The garden is also full to bursting with two greenhouses, 9 (now deceased) chickens in two pens and raised beds full of veg, as well as two allotment plots in a nearby village which was just too far away to "pop off" to.

The new house means I'll have a good base to build my carpentry business from as well as trying to give my future children something near the upbringing I had, involving hard work, fun and with lots of time spent together.

Above is a picture of my new "temporary workshop" (although it will loose the wheels at its new destination) in my fathers workshop after its green paint job, this is until I can build something a little bigger.

I've now got to work harder to pay the mortgage but its now for the thing I always dreamed of, with my wife who I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Feeling quite scared but very happy! Watch this space!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Dormer Window

I went back to the "Complicated Little Roof" today to fit the roof on the dormer window.
It was no easier than the rest of the roof as the drawings were next to useless and the customer wanted it different to how it was shown anyway. Once we'd worked out what overhang he wanted (it's different to the rest of the dormers on the house as it sticks out from the brickwork) I managed to get the rafters and ridge board up and then cut the long compound mitres on the jack rafters (which fitted first time - to my surprise!).
I've got a day left on this roof when the next window turns up, I just hope the weather is as dry as it was today (although maybe not as cold). The main downside today was I had to put my tools away in the dark!

Monday 12 December 2011

Sharpen-up Sunday

There's something strangely therapeutic about sharpening up your tools on a Sunday night ready for the week ahead.
These are my hand tools that need sharpening, and they stay with me everyday of the week.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Off Centre Turning

Had my last wood turning lesson for whats going to be a while the other night. I'd been learning how to turn off centre on the new variable speed Axminster lathe that the guild house have bought. The AW1416VS lathe is great for this type of work as it turns at any speed you want, meaning when I was turning off centre I could turn the speed right up to just before it starts to shake! The turning was done with a special chuck of Chris's (my tutor) and although I was only turning with pine I learnt the basic principles even if what I produced didn't look that great! ( I didn't bother sanding to too higher grit as its only a test piece) The speed has to be kept low but still fast enough to produce a good finish, not easy for me as I like to turn everything at a fast speed!and when you adjust the chuck to bring it back on centre parting off is a little more tricky than it would be with a normal piece.

Anyone else tried off centre turning?

Friday 2 December 2011

Closing The Gaps On Some Windows

Although I keep being let down with work at the moment what I do have is pretty varied!

Wednesday and Thursday this week I spent trying to close the gaps on some old windows. The windows need replacing really, and the customer understands that, but due to budget (as the house is listed and the windows would not be off the shelf) they decided just to have the gaps closed up a bit to try and save on heating and to make the house a bit more comfortable to live in.

First job was to take out some leaded glass from an old frame, break the frame apart, clean it up and re-glue it back together. I had to be really careful with the glass as its hundreds of years old, really thin and the lead holding it together was pretty weak. Then I had to linseed oil putty the glass back into the frame once it was back in position. My putty work will never win any awards as I don't do much of it, but it looks fine where it is and should last a bit longer now.

I then worked on closing the gaps on the four large windows on the front of the house. Not really a very fun job, sticking strips on and planing them down to fit. But it did mean I worked with hand tools for 2 days straight, mainly my three favorite planes (60 1/2, No.4, No.778)

The gaps are much smaller now and it should make the house less draughty, I even filled and then primed the repairs, ready for the windows to be painted.

A lovely old house to work on (the upstairs even had wide hewn oak floor boards).

Friday 25 November 2011

Complicated Little Roof

I had my first time off ill from work in 6 years this week, but by Tuesday night I was ready to get back at it.
I started this little roof on the Wednesday morning and straight away I knew it wasn't going to be straight forward. There's 4 steels marked on the drawing to go in; to take the old roof and support the ridge beam as well as the end gable brickwork, there's also a dormer window and a large valley gutter one side with a parapet wall containing a concealed gutter on the other. The first thing was a bit of head scratching and deciding where to begin ( as the picture below with drawings, bevels, scale rule and calculator shows!)
We decided to get the "cranked" steel in first, then the steel that's supporting the old roof, involving stripping the tiles, removing the old dormer window and cutting the old rafters.
We then managed to get a couple of rafters up with a ridge board (scarf joint ready cut) ready for us to place the new ridge beam so the brick layer can build up to it.
The sun was setting fast as we finished off tonight, but next week should see us shoot ahead with it (although I can already see that the drawings are missing another steel as there isn't one to pick up the shorter section of the new roof, so i guess we're have to come up with a solution for approval!).
Only a small roof but hundreds of things to think about! People forget how much a carpenter has to remember!

Monday 14 November 2011

Carving Chisels

I decided to have a bit of a tidy up in the workshop today (moping around as a fox killed all my chickens last night).
I brought a cheap Stanley toolbox the other day and decided that it would be good to keep all my carving chisels in one place. When I rounded them all up I was quite surprised by the number of them as this doesn't include my wood turning chisels or any of my normal everyday chisels that I use for work.
Some of them need quite a bit of work doing to them and I'd like to re handle quite a few of them but the ones in the tool rolls are all sharpened ready for action. None of them have cost me over a couple of quid but they have taken me quite a few years to accumulate (I've just remembered I've got another set of six tucked away that I wasn't happy with and not shown here).
55 here so far, ideally I'd like to have them in a big cabinet on the wall, but that will come when I get a bigger workshop!
Need to find more time to use them now! Anyone else got a nice set of specific tools that doesn't get used as much as it should (although they do get used!)?

Sunday 13 November 2011

Boyz In The Wood

I'm sorry my blog has been so boring lately. I've been so busy driving to Birmingham everyday and decorating every night that the weeks are slipping by.
I stayed at the farm last night as Mum and Dad are on holiday and my brother wanted to go out. My brother, Dave (Some of you already follow his blog http://davidalviti-rusticcreations.blogspot.com/) had left me out a few books to borrow (as we both read a stupid amount of books a year) but inside the one was a old picture he was using as a book mark.
It made me smile as we must be about 3 and 6 - a happy childhood on the farm.
Still somethings never change as this photo from last year shows (although we're stood the other way round in this photo). I hope we can have another photo like this when we're old men still cutting up bits of wood!

Sunday 6 November 2011

New Back Door

Sorry this isn't a more interesting post!
My week at work has not been very taxing on my brain, but we've got quite a bit done fitting out shelves in 18 different cleaners cupboards along with some other jobs so its gone quite fast.

More jobs at home again! I decided that this weekend I would change the back door from the kitchen as its always looked a little rough and is single glazed.

Bread and butter work again for a carpenter but I've grown to enjoy hanging doors and chopping out hinges. I've also stained some more windows and started to paint the landing up stairs - I've been quite busy with all these jobs but I can't say why just yet, but it will make for a more interesting blog in the future if it all comes off!

Sunday 30 October 2011

Jobs at Home

Well I know its always the way, but I have a habbit of putting off jobs at home (the cobblers childred always go bare foot and all). But this year I've been a little better. I fitted a new front door about a month or so ago which makes the house look much smarter in post box red - although I didn't take any pictures (which is unsual for me) It only took me four years to get round to it!

And this week we've had a new boiler fitted, major expense but the other one was so old I'm sure it was costing a fortune in gas. This weekend I had to fix the floor boards back down and I've decided to replace the skirting as its been painted so many times and looks really rough, I'm also going to replace the back door (the only bit of the house that isn't double glazed) and a new door on the much emptier airing cupboard, also going to box all the pipes and wires in with MDF. Should fill a few evenings!

Is there any jobs you've been putting off for years that you should start?

Saturday 22 October 2011

Summerfield Park

Well on Monday I finally handed over the park keepers cottage at Summerfield Park to the Council. The orginal deadline had no bearing on the end date as we unearthed so many problems that had to be taken care of. It went from this:

To this:

I'm really pleased with how the project turned out, on the whole I enjoyed it and made some good friends and learnt a lot in the process. It's a shame that we couldn't render the outside like the oringal plan or paint the whole of the inside but with the extra works we had to do to the roof and other areas the budget wouldn't allow it. That said I'm really pleased they decided to go with a new roof covering as this will last the building many years to come and looks really smart when viewed from the park. The other area I really like is the landing upstairs. The ceiling here was so low you almost had to be hunched up to walk around it. That ceiling pretty much fell down as we were working on it so under instruction we created a "vaulted" ceiling and a much larger feeling landing with the purlins on show, when painted out this area is going to look great.

I've been invited to go back and see how it looks when its all wallpapered and painted out and I'm looking forward to seeing the building in use.

Right next project please!

Monday 17 October 2011

Moulding planes

I'll keep this post short, I had a rather good time at the car boot on Sunday and bought one or two planes...

You all warned me what would happen!

I'll do a post later on what I've been making or this will turn into just a tool blog! Still restoring this lot will keep me busy over the winter months.

Sunday 9 October 2011

The Top of a Slippery Slope...

I did something rather rash this morning - I brought a wooden moulding plane.

Up until now I've never know enough about these planes to buy one or even give them a second look at the car book sales, but with what I've been reading lately I decided to look out for one and maybe try it out if I found a good one.

Rummaging around in boxes of old tools this morning I found one that looked quite good. The blade was in good condition, the wedge fitted tightly and the whole thing looked well made, the sole for the moulding even having a different timber fitted nicely in the sole of the plane.

It was £2 so I decided to risk it. It looked nice even if it didn't work very well!

Its stamped with the Hibernia Marple's & Sons Sheffield shamrock logo, I'm not great at dating tools but I guess that puts it somewhere from the 1937 (when they started using the shamrock) to when they stopped making wooden planes (anyone know more?)

When I got back from the car boot the first thing I did was to go down to the shed and take the plane apart to look at the blade, it was quite sharp and pretty much ready to go.

So I put the plane back together and adjusted it with a few taps to take a small cut. Pushing it along, two handed, felt great and with two strokes I had created some fine shavings and this lovely little bead.

The trouble is now I want to buy some more moulding planes, I think it will be nicer than using a router on a small project. Just need to do a little more research so I know what to look out for (recommendations of books will be appreciated).

Watch this space!

Making a Carving Mallet

I was looking for a simple project to have a go at during the evenings this week and decided to make a carving mallet.

Traditionally lots of different woods and materials were used to make mallets, from the heavy Lignum vitae (which is now like rocking horse poo to get hold of) to brass, to beech or fruit woods. Some were made from one piece of wood others had beech heads with ash handles (for example).

I brought some locally grown apple wood at a auction not so long ago with the intention of making a few mallets as apple is known to be a tough wood.

And tough it was! I had to sharpen my tools quite a few times during the project to keep them cutting cleanly. Unfortunately there is a little bit of woodworm in the wood and I only realised this once I had turned the basic shape, so I've treated it with woodworm killer and I don't think it will affect the way it is used as the wood is so hard.
I always worry when turning things like this as its difficult to know what shape to turn it as there are some many different kinds out there. From reading different articles about it and using the mallets a little bit, one that stands up is handy (as it wont roll of the bench) and a slight concave in the shape of the head of the mallet helps to land a clean blow on the chisel.

I've given it a coat of linseed oil and now hopefully someone will be able to use this and carve a work of art.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Anarchist's Tool Chest

I know I'm probably the thousandth blogger to mention The Anarchist Tool Chest, but for me - living in England - it was a really decadent purchase to have it shipped from America.

I'll keep this short though so I don't repeat what other people have said.

This book is only for those that have a really keen interest in woodwork, like me, and I loved it. It focuses on furniture making tools mainly and how to choose and use them, with the last section dedicated on how to make a traditional tool chest. The section on Tool selection has already made me start looking a little differently at car boot sales and I might even venture into the world of wooden planes for a bit of fun as well as to start making items in the workshop that require a bit of hand preperation work first.

I realise one of the main principles of the book of keeping tools to minimum I already do. I only buy more when I can't progress further with what I have (unless its a chisel and then I buy everyone I see!). The hand tool only route is something I think a house carpenter like me would struggle with, at least to be productive enough on site (although after three O'clock I'm very reluctant to get more tools out of the van!)

A good read for anyone into their wood and a beautifully made book as well - I've already decided what book I'm next having from the Lost Art Press!

Saturday 1 October 2011


Well this week I had to take my CSCS test again as my current card is going to expire.
To work on a building site (not on a private job) you now have to carry a CSCS card which is supposed to mean you have basic understanding of health and safety on site and the card also displays your trade and the level you are qualified to.

It's a funny test as most of the multiple choice questions are obvious but there are one or two to catch you out. A few half hours spent reading the book normally ensures that you wont fail but there are a few questions that raise a smile with there stupidity, like this one:

Q: To help keep rats away everyone on site should:

A: buy rat traps and put them around site

B: ask the local authority to put down rat poison

C: Bring a large cat to site

D: not leave scraps of food lying about

I think bringing a large cat to site would work best but I don't think its the answer they're looking for!

Anyway I passed so now I can renew my card for another 5 years (and my supervisors card next year) and keep working on the larger building sites.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

How to Fit Skirting

Well the last two days have been spent on my knees.

I've not found a new religion- I've been fitting skirting board at Summerfield Park.

On an old property like this it can be a nightmare to fit. All the walls are out, nothing is square and the floor is as level as the Peak District! All this makes for some slow going if its to be done right, luckily I'm not on my own and another carpenter, "Rocket" is helping me and we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The skirting is fixed to the wall using a grab adhesive (like gripfill) and then screwed and plugged to the wall. All mitres are glued and pinned.

It's funny but its always easy to see when an amateur has fitted skirting (normally you notice this when your sat on someones toilet) and your see that an internal joint has been mitred instead of scribed. The scribe joint means that if the wood shrinks when it drys out the gap wont open whereas an internal mitre would open up leaving an unsightly gap (although I'm sure the spiders would love it).

To cut a scribe (in a modern "on site" sort of way) you first cut a 45 degree mitre on the skirting, sloping so that the end grain you see is where you want your waste to be. You then cut along the line left by the saw (see the picture above) with a jack saw (you can colour this line in with a pencil to make it easier to see). Undercutting this slightly makes it easier to fit the pieces of skirting together.

Next you take your copping saw and undercut round the detail at the top of the skirting (see above picture again).

This should leave you something like this.

Which will slot into another piece of skirting like this - Giving you the perfect scribe joint.

I can't tell you how many of these there are in this house - it seems to be the longest bit of skirting in some rooms it's 2' before you come to another corner! (although I'm probably exaggerating)
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