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David Barron Furniture
A short while ago a friend of mine was asking my advice about buying a Norris plane. The classic pre war model A5 was what he was looking for, but I persuaded him to go for the Norris A50 instead. It cost him a lot less and worked a dream. He is very pleased.
Here is the Norris A50 that I use. It required the minimum of sole flattening as there was a dip behind the mouth, see the darker area on the sole. I could have continued lapping to remove this but it wouldn't have made any difference to performance.
The mouth (the tiny dark area) is just a sliver, enough to let a reasonable shaving through.
Although this was a budget model by Norris, costing about half of the A5 in the 1920's, it is actually more stable as the iron rests on the metal casting rather than the rosewood infill. With the iron removed (below) you can see the casting with the wooden infill set back slightly so it plays no part in supporting the blade.
The other thing I like is the handle is set very low down, giving a better 'feel' in use.
Of course with a sharpened blade it works a treat....
.... even on this curly English walnut.
Jesper from Denmark sent me these pictures of a little oak box he made for his partner.
After making a dovetail alignment board, this was his first attempt at a dovetail project and he looks to have done very well.
The box was used to present a gift certificate as congratulations for passing her PHD in architecture, very touching.
Here is Jespers dovetailing kit of tools, he looks to have everything he needs there.
Here is my set of Tasai dovetail chisels bought many years ago from 'The Best Things' in the US. They are still selling them now http://www.thebestthings.com/newtools/tasai_japanese_bench_chisels.htm
I made a nice little box for them from rare Andaman Padouk, purchased from the widow of the great Alan Peters. This wood was a favourite of James Krenov, my other hero.
These are beautifully weighted chisels and just superb to handle. Unlike other Japanese dovetail shaped chisels, these are actually suitable for getting right into the corners of dovetails. Instead of finishing with square edges, they are angled sufficiently to cope with the corners without bruising.
Tasai is more famous for his dramatic and showy Damascus chisels which 'The Best Things' also sell. But I just love the way these all black chisels are so understated, no fancy layering, no multiple hollows and no exotic handles. Just beautifully made, superbly balanced and extremely practical.
The handle maker (I've forgotten his name) discreetly leaves his mark on the red oak handle.
And the famous Tasai mark, again discreetly stamped on the blade. If you bought a set you wouldn't be disappointed with either the look, the feel or the performance.
Here's a nice pine box from Daniel. He used the 90 degree guide to pare down to the base line giving a nice flat bottom to his dovetails, good idea. I've seen a few different ways to achieve this, the classic way is to chisel a hump in the middle from both sides and then carefully pare it flat. Personally I prefer a hollow in mine, it's faster, no less strong and gives me the reassurance of no gaps on assembly.
Many woodworkers assume that pine is an easy wood to dovetail, it's soft and forgiving which means you can bang home the joint without much risk of splitting. However that same softness is also a disadvantage as the sides easily collapse under pressure and spoil the crispness of the finished joint.
I've found the best combination for dovetailing is a 'hard' wood for the tails, which hold their crisp shape and a 'softer' wood for the pins with some flexibility. A classic combination is hard maple and walnut, which also gives a strong colour contrast to the joint.
The dovetail alignment board below was Marks first project with his new 1:6 and 90 degree guides and he looks to have done a great job. The alignment board is a very useful tool and a great project to get used to using the guides. It's best made from a single board (quarter sawn if possible) for future stability. If you leave the parts over long then any mistakes made in the joint can be cut off and you can have another go.
Using 3/4" board also makes you appreciate the need for squareness in your dovetails, the thicker the material the more chance your cuts will wander off square and the joint won't fit. This is where the magnetic guides really come in their own keeping the cuts straight, but above all, square.
Nice to see a bit of Blue Spruce tool porn in there!
I bought this Norris mount cutting knife (made for Buck) ages ago as I really liked the look and feel of it.
The blade is sharpened at a very low angle to a spear pint on both sides of the blade, ie 4 bevels in all. I ground the bevels and finished off on water stones and it gave a super sharp point which was easier to achieve than I had envisaged.
Oliver Sparks made a small batch of modern high quality copies which can see on his Blog
The other end of the blade had been formed into what looks like a small 'split nut' screwdriver, not exactly sure what for. The picture below shows the construction with a central brass tube and flat sides which were bent over the wood of choice.
Time to use it!
The latest issue of F&C is out now (no 256, April 2017). My article on the making of a curved sided dovetail box is featured if anyone would like to have a go at this technique.
It includes an exploded drawing with all dimensions as well as a full description and lots of pictures.
There is a very good article on the Williams and Cleal Furniture School in Devon showing some of the fine work they do there. I've visited the school and set up and the atmosphere seems to make it a great place to learn.
A two page article on preventing tear out with a hand plane is very interesting, exploring the benefits of a higher angle, tight mouth and a finely set cap iron, although not necessarily together.
An interesting article by Jim Hooker (appropriately) on the sharpening and use of various types of scrapers.
In this issue there are also articles, on hand engraving, Lie Nielsen honing guide, the Geffrye Museum, Robert Ingham, decorative mouldings, antique furniture and planning techniques.
Back in 1998 a 179 year old oak was felled on the Tatton Estate in Cheshire and leading craftsmen were asked to design work using very part of the tree. By 2001 the completed work was gathered in and an excellent book was published, see above. Prince Charles wrote the forward to the book. It can be bought second hand on Amazon, enter 'One Tree Merrell'.
One of the standout pieces was the Dory Shelves (below) designed by Petter Southall which harks back to his training as a boat builder in Norway. This one off piece has come back to the market and is for sale at his lovely showroom in West Bay Dorset for £4,950. In comparison to the work he currently sells this is a relative bargain and I'm sure will represent an excellent future investment as well as a lovely piece to own.
Another stand out piece is the Romanian Chest which was Alan Peters last significant piece before his sad decline and passing. I was lucky enough to see this when I visited Alan's wife Laura and it was subsequently bought by the Craft Study Centre in Farnham where it was briefly displayed before being locked away in one of their warehouses, shame.
Matthew Burt made this lovely fluted hall table.
Branch oysters were used to make this top, one for the catwalk only!
Robert Ingham made this bench cleverly combining angles curves and straight lines.
I've heard another one tree project is being planed and I very much forward to seeing the results.
The latest edition of Australian Wood Review is out. This is an excellent magazine that's well worth subscribing, there's only four issues per year so the content quality is very good.
In the tool review section this caught my eye, an upgraded adjuster nut for the lie Nielsen block plane. By using a free running bearing it reduces the risk of loosing lateral adjustment when moving the blade in and out. Ingenious but simple and a bargain at $29 Aussie dollars.
Robert Howard also produces them for Lie Nielsen low angle and shoulder planes.
A fascinating article on Kumiko also caught my eye.
And six pages on the Mujingfang factory in China is also very interesting.
Robert from Canada sent me these pictures of his latest project a very nice jewellery box in Canadian white maple and figured walnut from a tree that blew down in Toronto.
He's planning on lining the box which would finish it off nicely.
I managed to get round to finishing off the box with the mitred corners and dovetailed Dominoes.
See my first post here
The tray is a piston fit and the protruding top has been shaped to give a soft close lid.
The little brown oak stand with the shaped feet adds a bit of interest (and time).
The lid opens exactly where the board transitions from the white to the olive coloured ash, which is nice. The floating panel in the lid is some tightly rippled ash, which is not properly visible (I must get better with my camera).
A full article including all the techniques used will be appearing in Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine later in the year.
The box will also be on display (and for sale) at the Celebration of Craftsmanship exhibition in August http://www.celebrationofcraftsmanship.com/
Mark sent me these pictures of a cot he has recently completed. It's well designed and attractive with a very useful drawer. It was made entirely by hand in an 8' x 6' workshop (garden shed) which is amazing. You can see more of the project on Mark's Blog
The same person also has this hall table and mirror, advertised in ash, but looks like sycamore to me.
This is definitely a marmite piece, but it would certainly make a splash in your hallway!
The last one is a totally bespoke piece which is going to be much harder to sell, even though it cost more than £12,000 in 2009. This piece reminds me why I don't like making bespoke furniture. If the shelves could somehow be detached it would be a nice cabinet. Here's the link
Here is a nice whiskey cabinet from Dale in Spain made from Mahogany. It was the first time he had used one of my dovetail guides and he is understandably pleased with the results. That looks like a two bottle cabinet with enough room for four glasses, very sociable!
Daniel from Ireland sent these pictures of boxes he made to house his tools. The first one is for his dovetailing equipment and the second is for his nice saws.
That reminds me I must sort out the storage for all my Japanese saws, since moving work shop and loosing wall space they are all laying together in a drawer, not good.
A friend of mine sent me some pictures of some great looking knives that he purchased from a guy called Matt Cook. They are razor sharp and were very reasonably priced for a hand made tool.
If you are interested Matt can be contacted via Instagram
Handworks 2017 is only three months away, May 19th - 20th at Amana Colonies, near Cedar Rapids Iowa. It is the best hand tool woodworking show in the USA and not one to be missed, especially as it's been 2 years since the last one. Better still it's absolutely free.
The queue in 2015 waiting for the doors to open on the fist day was huge, stretching all the way down the high street.
Roy Underhill will be entertaining the crowds on the Saturday morning and again entry is free, first come first served for the best view. He is a very funny man and a very knowledgeable woodworker.
Due to demand the show has expanded into five different halls with more demonstrators/ makers.
Jameel Abraham and his family have done all the organisation and their wonderful range of Benchcrafted vices will all be there for you to try and buy. https://benchcrafted.com/
The event is more of a gathering of like minded tool makers, than a show. It is a non profit making event with all the participants promoting it via social media. As such it has a very friendly atmosphere with everyone freely sharing their tips, techniques and knowledge. It is also very hands on with lots of tools to try and buy.
Scott Meeks will have a full range of his excellent wooden planes.
Daed Toolworks showed a range of very tempting and beautifully made infill planes.
Konrad Sauer (Sauer and Steiner) will be making the trip down from Canada with his modern interpretation of infill design.
.........and they don't come much sexier than this!
Blum Toolworks will have their unique planes on show.
In addition to the show being free there are numerous excellent door prizes donated by many of the participants, all you have to do is register in advance http://handworks.co/
The Amana Colonies are a great attraction in their own right and well worth a days visit while you're there as well as entertaining other non woodworking members of you family who might want to make the trip.
Oh, and of course I nearly forgot, I'll be there demonstrating my range of dovetail guides, now stocked by Highland Woodworking. I may also have a few of my planes for sale.
Hope to see you there!
Box maker Phil Weber has been making a living producing his wonderful small boxes for 41 years now. This will be his last year of making as he and his wife want a change, I think he's done his bit! He has a chapter in the excellent book New Masters of the Wooden Box.
A few years ago, when the exchange rate was a lot better than now, I bought three of Phil's boxes. The one below was featured on the back cover of Fine Woodworking.
This one has a lift off lid with ebony and spalted maple.
The last one is simple box but with some lovely curves.
Phil has produced lots of new designs for his final year. If you want one of his fine boxes don't leave it too long!
I made this small walnut chest a while ago with wood I bought from Alan Peters widow. The design was inspired by a chest he made and featured in Fine Woodworking.
I had put the chest to one side as the drawers needed final fitting as well as lining.
The drawers have a false back so that the whole thing is accessible without the risk of the drawer falling out, so simple!
Bringing in the rear prevented me from using dovetails so I used tiny tenons with contrasting wedges. The tenons are just 3.8 mm square (just over 1/8").
Using through dovetails, with contrasting ripple sycamore, was another of Alan's favourite techniques.
The wonderful figured walnut has continuous grain round the carcass and the rear panel is a book match of the top.
Following a request for more details on the ebony chair here is the original design by Angel Corso from Venezuela. You can see more of his wonderful work on his website https://www.behance.net/gallery/37909759/AROA-Chair-(AC214)
Just to add, Ross's beautiful copy was for his own consumption and not for sale or profit.
Ross from Brisbane Australia sent me these pictures of his latest wonderful creation.
Creating these shapes is a lot of work, but to do it in ebony? He won't be doing another!
The shaping was done with HNT Gordon high angle shaves, wonderful tools, and finished with scrapers. http://hntgordon.com.au/gidgee-spoke-shaves.html
I've acquired this rather nice pencil gauge from Low Fat Roubo (aka Derek Jones, editor of F&C magazine) http://www.lowfatroubo.co.uk/
It is beautifully made and finished which is no surprise as Derek used to earn his living as a cabinet maker as well as a French polisher. The woods are pear and bog oak, a nice contrast.
One end has a fine conical tip which can be easily and cheaply replaced (gramophone needle, ingenious!) This is great for marking along the grain without wandering.
And the other has a pencil which is threaded to a nice tight fit as well as being easy to adjust. The gauge comes with full instructions as well as two pencils, I've trimmed mine down to a manageable size. Derek is also taking orders for an equally useful cutting/ pencil gauge.
Derek posts regularly in Instagram under Low Fat Roubo and is well worth following. https://www.instagram.com/lowfatroubo/