Thursday, 4 December 2014

Your reputation built on the shoulders of your courier: Reasons to stay clear of Yodel.

So Earlier this week I wrote about my recent experiences with a well known tool company, and their customer service. The article is still up - and will likely have an update to it soon, but for know I'll leave it there and move on to todays topic.

It's been said many times that picking a good courier for your deliveries can be the difference between success and failure, after all, If I commit to delivering to you my goods, in a stated time, then I need a courier to do the same.

Many people are accepting of the busy periods around christmas etc. as am I, but it gets a little more upsetting when you charge extra for a quick service, and it doesn't come through.

I will say upfront that I'm more than a little annoyed with the level of service recently "achieved" by the UK based company Yodel. On looking further into it online, it seems I'm not the first, and I'd be interested to hear your experiences with them.

Monday, 1 December 2014

3 solid reasons why not to waste your money on stanley fold-up saw horses.

I think the title says it all, but let me take a little while to elaborate. About two or so years ago, I bought a pair of the stanley folding saw horses. For those who can't be bothered to click the link, they are the ones that fold up and clip together for "light and easy transportation"

In fact for those that don't have time to waste reading all the way to the bottom, here's the three reasons:

  1. The yellow clips break, making the "clip together for transport" worthless.
  2. The plastic leg supports break the first time you unpack it.
  3. Stanley customer service is rubbish.

For those who have a bit more time, read-on.

I don't exactly mistreat my investments in tools, in fact I would say I was completely the opposite end of the spectrum, nearly to the point of OCD. These have been well used over time, and have been very handy indeed. They pack up small, to the point that they basically live in the van stowed under the floor.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Van Modification - Organisation and storage is key

Although I'm really not a "Tool Snob", I am however,a bit OCD when I comes to putting tools away and keeping them tidy and organised, and EVEN more so when it comes to making use of the space available in my small van.

The first thing I did when I bought the van was put a false floor in made from 9mm Plywood. This sits on five timber sections made from 2x11/2 treated timbers. Two run left to right, as seen in the picture. The other three run front to back.
This creates three large opening under the sub floor, which can be accessed from the doors. It was always my intention to put large slide-out drawers in there too. But lets just say it's still the plan ;-)

The shelving, was made from the same plywood.

Having the sub floor makes perfect sense, It basically doubles the amount of storage capacity for tools, or allows materials in and out simply without needing to repack kit all the time.

There is, of course a compromise in terms of height. Rarely though has this ever been a problem - In fact, until now it was never a problem!

So the arrangement I use is great for organisation, and storage to and from a job, but it still leaves me with several trips back and fourth with tools once I get to where I need to be....

To help with this I decided to get one of the Festool SYS-Roll trolleys. Recently I've upgraded several tools to festool's (more on that later), and it made perfect sense to get a few Systainer boxes to keep things in and load them all on the trolley.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Piher Clamps: 2 months of playing, and a trip to Birmingham NEC

I previously wrote about some clamps I got asked to take a look at, so if you want a bit of background on this, the other article is HERE.

comparison clamp-off.
So getting the clamps back to the workshop, the first thing I did was set about examining them to see what was what, and what they would be most suitable for. Piher do a whole range of clamping solutions, for pretty much all applications, most of which are made in their foundry in Northern Spain.
Some products are made by a separate company to strict specifications. This includes the PRL range of clamps, which look rather much like another, "well known black and red brand", yeah OK Bessey.....But don't be fooled into thinking these are just "a copy", there were more than a few surprises hidden within.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Thumbs down YouTube videos: Distracted by the obvious is hindering creativity.

With a 100 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute, you could be forgiven for missing a few videos. But not for missing the point, and not a trick or two.

I put videos out fairly regularly, and subscribe to countless channels. I would consider many of the content creators as friends, swapping ideas, experiences and themes like football stickers once were in the school playground.

A topic that seems even more regular than the friday release of your favourite woodworkers latest creation is that of the troll, or the thumbs down. People like and dislike my videos just as I do with my own, and others. But I can honestly say I do not remember EVER hitting the thumbs down on any youtube video.

So why not? politeness? well, I know better than most (at least better than people who watch but don't upload) just how much time and pressure a video takes. I can take upto 3 or even 4 times longer to just film even a simple video than simply build it, then there's editing, with the potential delays and problems that creates. Uploading can generally be left to happen admittedly, but there's always the chance of a mishap midway through. But that's just par for the course. I want to look at the videos. I accept that putting a video out creates far more work than just watching and making, so lets move on.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Under pressure: "New" kid on the block, putting the pressure on your first choice of clamp brand.

I don't exactly have companies and products camped outside my workshop, but once in a while I am contacted by either telephone or Email. About a month ago I was emailed by a company that make Power tools and asked would I like a shiny new Chop saw to review, quickly followed up by "we're asking a few people, and the best one we pick would be sent something each month free, to review". Whilst I have no problem with this Brand (actually I own one of theirs already), They got the same answer as everyone gets.
I have no problem with reviewing peoples products in principle, but the same rule applies to all. You get my opinion, and it will be honest, constructive, and based solely on what I find. Warts and all. I see no point in bigging up a product to something it's not, as any and all credibility is gone in a breath. Better to turn them away and miss an opportunity with reputation intact. It's just not worth it, at least that's my opinion. I haven't heardchop saw. back about the 
Selection of Piher clamps resting after a week of use and abuse.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Workshops next best thing? Sugru: What's it all about and how come it's got more uses than Swiss Army Knife on steroids?

Seems I'm always late to the party when it comes to discovering new things, so maybe here's your chance to Yawn, and say "seen it!" in an exhaustive tone, or maybe not.

It's rare that I get a little excited about something purely from a few pictures on the web and bit of marketing schpeal, but this Little silver packet is actually quite amazing!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Final Finishes finished: Home made Varnish! A month of mixing up various finishes finally pays off with something usable.

It's been about a month, but finally the mixing up of solvents, varnishes and oils has paid off!

The last time I wrote about these experiments, I'd mixed a few solvents in with some of the old Sadolin, and some raw linseed oil. After applying it to a few test pieces, it was taking far too long to dry. I think it was about 5 days and still not fully dried.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Experimenting with finishes - Varnish: Part II, playing around still.

The Yacht Varnish I found in the Turning room, turned out to be not the only stuff I had! Whilst out and about I visited my larger, further away Workshop - which is basically now a storage area.

Trying to hunt out some white spirit, which I knew was hiding on a shelf somewhere, I discovered a 4 litre tub that was nearly full keeping a stash of spirit and water-based stains. Grabbing the lot, along with a few bits and another piece of 4x2 for the competition I notice a really old tin of sadolin.

It was Really old! Rusted can, thick skin on top. Perfect for what I have planned!
Just because there's a thick skin on top, this is still perfect for the experiment

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

More design ideas that you can shake a 4by2 at: The Summers woodworking Annual 2x4 creative challenge.

So I suspect as a woodworker, unless you've been on holiday in the middle of the Gobi desert, of camping out in the deep st parts of the rain forests, you will have noticed that Brian from Summers woodworking is hosting the 2nd annual 2x4 creative competition.

From the off  I should say that I was initially not going to enter the competition. I didn't really get involved in it last year, and being insanely busy and distracted by other projects I was reluctant to add yet another piece to my list of ideas and projects.

After all, There's not really much I can do with a piece of timber stud right!?  WRONG!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Finishing: the beggining of the end or the end of a beggining?

It's funny, to me at least when I tell someone that the current project is being "finished tomorrow", they are generally surprised when I add, so it'll be ready to collect/deliver in a week. :-)
Finishing could take weeks, but finished is a point in time. Sometimes it's fun to deliberately use the same word for two meanings in the same sentence. Rarely is it understood.

To me the finishing of a project could take a few minutes, or it could take longer than the actual build. I like to use various finishes, from paint or wax, to oil or beyond with a french polish which could easily suck you in to hours and hours of hand rubbed shellac and de-nibbing alone.

 Turpentine for the beeswax, Meths for the french polish. Even Mod Podge can be used as a varnish.

I like to turn items, some to just turn, and some to sell. I recently watched a video from the drunken woodworker, David Picciuto. He did a great video on his own oil/poly mix, where he mentioned that people who like to buy handmade wooden items like the tactile feel of a silky smooth finish. This to my mind is absolutely right, and a reason I myself like to play around with wood and experiment! 

It got me to thinking about making up my own oil based, varnish mix that I could use on pieces, without having to buy-in yet another product, just use up what I already have sitting on a shelf "going off". I HATE TO WASTE ANYTHING, in particular money!!

It always makes my sulk a little when you look at all the oil finishes out there, Danish, walnut, tung, raw linseed, boiled linseed, walnut, teak, mineral, chopping board, butcher block. The list seems endless - not to mention confusing, thanks to all the marketing hype! I generally stick to what I know and like....

A reasonable selection of various oils.

Linseed oil, relatively easy to get, and cheep. raw linseed is great, I use it to not only to finish wood, but also mix it with beeswax and gum turpentine to make furniture polish, see the video on this, and as a lubricant when french polishing with a rubber.  But I "know" not use boiled linseed oil on oak, as it can blacken the timber. 

Walnut, vegetable and olive oil I like to use on my chopping boards. Some time ago I tried a couple of brands of "food safe" and "butcher block" oils. I saw no noticeable advantage to their use over the oils from the kitchen cupboard, but if you're going to sell the chopping boards, it's best to cover your back! personally, if i'm going to cook with olive oil and eat it in my salad dressing, a little spec on my cheese sandwich is hardly going to hurt!

I've never knowingly used either Danish or Tung oils. At least I never bought a can labelled as such, but I'm aware that deck oils and other outdoor oils are generally tung based. and they are far more waterproof than linseed - which is all but useless in this respect.

Now Polyurethane, I'm not a huge fan, it reminds me of the sort of post-war, mass produced spray-on finish you find that looks rather like plastic. Not the sort of tactile, "pick me up and hold me" type finish I talked about, but indulge me for just a moment......

I'm thinking of taking my linseed oil addiction, and polyurath-hate, dilute with a suitable solvent - Probably White spirits, but possibly Naptha. and see if i can't do what David did, and mix up my own bionic super batch of genetically enhanced oil based, poly-enhanced, pick me up and hold me durable finish. If nothing else It's gotta be worth a giggle. You see people posting Videos on YouTube, and Pins on pinterest with recipes and and how to's. So let's give it a go! I'll let you know how I get on! and maybe post a video, and pin! So make sure you follow me and Subscribe!

The calm before the storm?

And hey if it all goes wrong, I'll go try some Pure Tung oil, or Danish oil!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Hand saw sharpening: Be brave, save money and discover just how easy it really is!

When I was a small boy, my father had a handsaw, which was my grandfathers. It sat in the shed and rarely got any use. Not because my father was not the sort of person to build things or use tools... Completely the opposite, he would spend hours tinkering and building model steam engines from etched brass and white metal, as an apprentice on the railways he has a massive skill set for metal work and engineering.
The handsaw was blunt, "this could really do with a good sharpening" he would say, on the odd occasion it would get used.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Some router jigs have a hidden use: The Trend adjustable lock jig, a Review

This is another new Jig from trend, Specifically for setting locks and latches into doors, I bought their older model a few years back when I had a contract with a letting agents in Newmarket, Suffolk. I prefer to use a router, as it means the mortice is square to the door, and no way to swerve a spade fit out the face of a thin door, plus it ensures the parts are square, and that makes it easier to fit the handles.
It's also a quicker and neater job too.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

An honest review from a skeptical mind.: The New Skeleton Hinge Jig From Trend

Ok, so I've sat here for twenty minutes, trying to think of a whitty and amusing introduction to this article, but I can't and so I'll simply just Dive-in!

I've been using trend products for as long I've been woodworking, pretty much, I try to buy the best quality bits of kit, that I can afford, and was introduced to Trend by a neighbor who was a carpenter.

I've bought a few of their jigs, some cutters, and routers. If you've seen any of my router videos on YouTube, you will no doubt have seen many of their products in use.

I'm normally, if perfectly honest, "buy-in" to many internet reviews. With comments and thoughts like "just say it's great so they send you more stuff", or "well of course you're going to say it's great, you're being paid to".

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lost in the web, Places I found myself, and great things I discovered

So recently the veterinary surgery has been been keeping me occupied, with stud walls, window seats, and doors to hang (more on hanging doors soon!)
I'd been wanting to get my teeth into making this new table saw stand, and pillar drill stand, but by the time I've gotten back, it's been nearly dark, so no point doing anything, let alone videoing.

Add to that the cold, and it's not much of a great recipe for woodworking projects, so I've had to make do with watching other peoples stuff. Here's a few things I've stumbled into on my travels. around the international worldwide interweb.

Firstly one from Jay Bates, I first met him on Keek, what he doesn't know about sketchUp seems not important enough to learn, he's a really great guy who's happy to bend over backwards to help.(I asked him about WordPress last year, and he put together a 20 minute YouTube video, uploaded it all before rushing off for a shift at work, within a couple of hours - despite a 6 hour timezone difference!) Anyways, I really like his latest video for storing saw blades!

The second one is from a guy called Simon Heslop, I had never heard of him before, but he has several interesting looking videos, including one about making a medieval Norman helmet. Anyway this video is him making his oscillating spindle sander, I should really say engineering his sander, as the thought, detail and machine skills he's put into it are really cool. tilting table, inserts, dust extraction etc. Very well built, and thought out. With plans available as well!
I really wanted to link to this video, but for some reason YouTube can't link it like the other one, but click this to watch it!! Damn computers! :-/

Also there's this nice video from Frank Howarth. I'm in no doubt that if you're reading this you've seen his videos, his shop is to die for, and his skills with stop motion would leave you speechless. Not to mention his skill on the lathe. But also the way he involves his children in projects, the boat video from a while back was great, and I hope my daughter will show similar enthusiasm soon for woodworking - at 6 her attention span is not quite geared towards woodworking just yet. But the simplicity of this cat table is great. and well worth 5 minutes of your time!

John Heisz always seems to come up trumps with his projects, and here's a couple that don't disappoint, in the first video he shows just how easy it is to make a marking gauge - that's a few quid saved straight off the bat!
And here's my favorite of all these, I can't recall just how many times I've scratched about on site looking for something "about the right size" to draw round to radius off a corner. I'll be making one of these to keep in my tool bag from now on! VERY HANDY!

hope you enjoyed these as much as me. don't forget to check out my own channel on Youtube!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Water tight reason to get water tight!

So it's been ages since the last post, I'm guessing some of you, well those not following along on the Facebook page at least, will be wondering what's up, and been happening?

Last time I was talking about getting up and looking at the roof, sorting out the leaks, and getting everything water tight. This has now happened, and is all sealed up.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Free woodworking project ideas and inspiration: Going old skool in the 21st century

Just before Christmas I had my VIP stay with me for a few days. I had basically shut the workshop up for the holiday, but as most of you will know, you just can't shut your mind off from thinking up ideas and projects!

So, during one wet afternoon, we decided to take a trip to the local library, it's a small setup with a few books, and we picked out a few that would be suitable for her reading ability and at the same time be challenging as well. To be honest I started to get a little board, and was struggling to hide it. Much the same as she does during a trip to any shop not selling toys!

but what happened next made me smile so wide it filled the room! "come on Daddy, lets find you a book too." after a few minutes, we had found the shelf filled with various craft books, from scrap-booking to knitting, and joy of joy, two woodworking books!

I used to work in a "library" of sorts for a pharmaceutical company, boxes and shelves filled with medical journals, and peer reviewed papers on various boring and complicated ailments and conditions. Nothing at all of interest except the cheque [pay check] at the end of the month, but I did get a basic understanding of how libraries work, and are struggling in the 21st century.

It seems libraries are closing at an alarming rate, and struggling to get punters through the door. I've spoken to a few people around, and many say that they don't use the library because of two main reasons, lack of books of interest, and forgetting to take books back and paying fines.

I would counter both of these arguments:
Firstly every library has a computer catalogue in it. you can search every book in the county(at least here in the UK, Please leave a comment if you use libraries in the US), and request one of interest to be delivered to your local library for you to take out. even if the book is out, you can reserve it and it will be delivered upon it's return.
Secondly, fines... if you want to take the book out for  a bit longer you can renew the book upto (usually), 2 more times, that's about three months with you, depending on the terms of you library.

you can also get the library to email you a week or so in advance to remind you to return it. I once had a book about different finishing techniques for nearly 6  months a few years back, after i had been told i could no longer renew it, i returned it to the library, and checked it straight out again and took it home again. nobody had reserved it so the library allowed me to take it again.

Even if you forget to renew or return the book, the fines are simply pennies! I forgot to take back a couple of the original reading books for the VIP, they were a week late, and the fine came to £1.05!
that's nothing, barely a can of cola these days!

now, in the 21st century you can sit on the computer, trawl the internet for thousands of posts, pages and videos. and that's great, but who can deny that it's not a great feeling to lay in bed, or the bath, or - well you get the idea, and flick through pages of a real book, one that's free, and one you can give back to another to use, and get enjoyment from?

The two books I took out that day were great, the first was a scroll saw pattern book, filled with pages of templates, pictures and ideas from animals, jigsaws, really simple ideas that anyone could tackle at any level.
The second was also book of simple ideas, the kind of items you might see in a craft store in a quiet seaside town for tourists. you might pay a few pounds for these, but something anyone with an "I'd like to try that" mentality, of any age or ability.

Go on, get out there and support your local library, before you loose it!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Why Winter is a great time to get those garden projects on the workbench, a simple garden climber arch.

So it's been a few days since I last put anything in writing, I've been pretty busy with a couple of jobs. If you follow my Facebook page, you'll probably have seen the Victorian fireplace I did after the last post - more on this soon.

You may have even seen a couple of pictures showing the garden Arch I just completed.

A friend of mine asked me to renew one of these in her garden, She has a huge garden, with acres of grass and even more fields beyond, and as we walked through garden past all the stalks and stems still hiding from the weather and waiting for that, soon-to-arrive, spring morning before once again coming to life and spreading fast across the still dormant flower beds. It suddenly occurred to me that now is actually a pretty good time to get out into the garden and look at all the projects we'll want to think about once the spring comes...

Once the flowers start to come back, they'll be in the way, besides, once the weather improves we'll want to be planting up, not building planters. look at the timber projects now before they are covered in flowers before deciding on changing them.

So this was the project, to replace the old arch, that had rotten out at the bottom since it was put up early 20 years ago. i was asked to make it the same size and of similar construction, so setting to with a tape measure and pen. I made a few notes and off I went.

Working on the top section first, I worked out how wide i wanted the arc to be, i.e. the span + the overhang. and also how long it needed to be i.e. the width of the support legs.
this gave me the size of the top, plus all the over hangs i wanted, and could be marked out for joining together.

I decided to go with simple cross halving joints for the top, this was easy to do just trenching out the bits that needed to go with the mitre saw, and chiseling out the waste. the Waste was only butchered out with the chisel, using a hammer rather than any real finesse, even so the joints were tight, and neat once assembled.

The legs and the tops were marked and cut in the same way, just changing the depth of the trench, By marking out just one side, then clamping all together, the time taken to cut the trenches was reduced by about 4 times. Just remember though, when using the sliding saw to cut these trenches, the piece nearest the cut ends up with a curved cut so everything needs to be brought away from the saw fence to give a flat bottom to the cut line. You can either use a scrap piece for this, or as i did, another leg slightly offset. JUST MAKE SURE YOU CLAMP IT SO IT CUTS IN THE WASTE AREA THOUGH!! :-)

So this was the finished project. I cut the frames for the legs in the same way as the top, and then haunched the top of them to fit in around the top. A sill was then screwed onto the bottom of the legs to slow down the rotting process. This can then easily be changed at a later date if required.
The whole structure is then simply anchored to the ground with 2 angle irons hammered well into the soil, drilled, and screwed into the legs. once the rose bush come back to life in the spring, it will also be attached to that as well.

I decided to leave out the vertical noggins that were part of the original design, as the rose bush is now well established and not in need of  so many places to wind round.

All the timber used was pressure treated, and the cut and notched areas treated with the same  (Protim), chemical as used in the factory applied. Even the screws were treated so as not to react with the chemicals. I used "Fasten Master GaurdDog screws, as I had them to hand, but these are expensive!, so 'normal' Decking screws would have been OK too.

An enjoyable project, made easier in the winter months.
Overall (footprint) the dimensions are 7'High, 4'4" Wide, 2' deep. Plus a few inches of overhang for the top.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014, a wet, dusty and structural start: Sometimes it's best to step back and get some experience on the job!

I've already written about a little on the leaky workshop roof......and the last thing I want to do is start to sound like a broken record, so all I'll say now is last night we had A LOT of wind and rain, so this morning I discovered that I'll be making, (at the very least), a new fence for the pillar drill table! I also now have 5L of Bitumin paint and some lead flashing! More on this very soon.

This goes someway to explaining the sprinkler system currently functioning in the workshop! ;-)

Today I started on a fireplace removal, 10 years ago the fireplace was removed and blocked up. I now need to open up the hole again and have it ready for a log burner to be fitted later next month.

The company that are fitting the new log burner are ACE, and Marek the fitter, is even better. Last year he came and fitted one for my better half after I removed the old gas one, opened up the hole and did the surround as it is now.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Project previews for 2014: A sneak ahead for season 2 YouTube videos, and YOUR OWN INVOLVEMENT!!

OK,  So as I definitely mentioned the other day, the roof is absolutely the priority for this year in terms of jobs to do, the wonderful English weather has turned to rain, and it's also quite windy so the leaks are "significant".

Bitumin paint, silicone and some adhesive flashing will be the bulk of the solution, as well as a section of new timber. but more of that as it happens.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New year, New jobs, for the workshop, Projects to do before projects can begin

So 2013 saw the opening of the workshop doors to the world. Starting in around March, I joined Keek, after watching a Mere Minutes videos of Steve's. using it merely as a voyeurs tool for the first few months, it wasn't really until the end of spring before I started using it as a communication device. Making new friends around the world, and being more involved in the community I decided at the end of May to start up my YouTube channel.

The previous year, 2012, saw HUGE changes for both myself and the workshop, basically moving everything and restarting and setting up in a new location, about 1/5 the original size.