Monday 23 June 2014

Box, Buxus sempervirens

Lovely wood, very hard and very dense. Carving it with a knife is hard work and will take a long time. Obviously, green it will be a tad softer, but still very hard. I was at the Blackdown Woodfair this weekend, and a member of the Blackdown Hills Hedging Association took me to the back of his van. One never knows what to expect. After a bit of gentle English bartering.
Me, How much would sir like for this?
Him, Oh I don't know. Me Ummm. ummm um arh um, how about £15.
Him Oh I was hoping for £20.
Me, Okay £20 then. Would you mind bringing it over to my stall later, I don't have any money on me at the moment.

Over the years I have collected a bit of box, all bone dry and ready to use. I mainly use it for tool handles.

 This lump of box is 8 inch diameter, which is large for box. It has been down for 9 months or so and has one large split across it. In the workshop I cut  along this split, it was remarkably dry. With box I would recommend splitting it in half lengthways and then stacking to season. Most of the stuff I have is in the round and have all split.  If you do get some green box, split and store under cover straight away. The colour can be quite yellow at times, but often a nice creamy colour. Left to dry in adverse conditions it can easily start going grey in places.
 This is part of a 4 foot length that I bought at Westonbirt show for a fiver, it was cheap because it had these spiral splits in. Cross cutting it revealed that it had grown at such an angle off vertical that it has a lot of reaction wood. The splits really do not go that deep.
I am not worried about the spiral grain and reaction wood as I will be making handles rather than dimensioned planks for cabinet work.

I used box for as a handle for the MaChris that Jon Mac and Chris Grant gave me. Being so dense it can be finished to a silky smooth surface. A tactile finish that the hand falls in love with. The wood scraps very well and a cut finish with a sharp knife is glassy smooth. If sanded then work all the way through to the finest grits.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Scythe fair 2014

Mainly just pictures for this post, just to give you an idea what it was like.

The food was great and lots of it.

Not that many English scythes in this line up, mostly Austrian. 

 My good friend Mark Allery, not only a great bodger but also a championship scyther.

Nick Gibbs of Living woods fame. In the great British spirit Nick is planning to fly over to France with his homemade helicopter hat. I see Nick at most shows and he makes and sells toy helicopters in-between drumming up business for his magazines. I have an article about putting wooden handles on a MaChris knife and a fan bird push knife, in the forth coming issue.

 The line up for the finals.
Of course with all those sharp scythes it got a bit much for some.

Thursday 12 June 2014

End grain with a record No 4 smoothing plane

You may have thought that from the last post that I turn my nose up at No4 and 5 planes. This is not the case and I have tuned and got to know intimately my jack and smoothing Record planes. A well tuned and sharpened plane is a joy to use, no more so than getting a perfect finish on end grain. In the past I would go for electric sanders, these days by default I pick up hand tools. In fact I think it is quicker to plane the end grain to clean the saw marks up, and then to give it a final fine sanding, rather than to try and sand the 2 end grain ends. It also gives a better flatter finish.

The wood is Douglas fir, English grown, 8 x 6 inches. Unfortunately English grown Douglas grows way too fast. I have used American stuff before which usually is very slow grown with up to 30+ rings per inch. Slow grown Douglas is a very different wood to fast grown stuff and is certainly a better quality wood. I prefer working with slow grown softwoods any day.

I used my Record smoothing plane at a skew across the grain after planing a fine bevel around the edge to stop wood splitting out. I also tend to  work from the edge into the middle and stop short of the far edge.
Skewing gives a far better finish, rather than pushing the plane inline.

Friday 6 June 2014

Scrub scraper plane

I have just finished 14 paddles for a local canoe adventure company. Over the years I have made many paddles for them to their own design. I would usually use arbotechs and angle grinders to shape them. I disliking this type of electric grinding and sanding work more and more these days. So after gluing up and cutting the waste off with a bandsaw out came the scrub plane. I then go straight to the scrub scraper plane as I call it, I forget the jack and smoothing planes altogether.

One of the tools that delights me for its simplicity is the scraper plane. I love my Stanley No 80 and it works so well, and is simple to set up. I am also pleasantly surprised in just how long it stays sharp. I sharpen plane blades far more often.
The scraper plane can deal with any type of wood, knots and wild grain that other planes just cannot cope with. The reason I call it a scrub scraper plane is because just like a scrub plane I crown the edge. So looking at the blade flat on it is higher in the middle than the edges, in other words it has a curve in it.